Category Archives: Food

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As part of the About Men Radio Fitness Challenge, About Men Radio contributor Janifer Cheng explains how getting back to nature — and away from processed foods — has benefited her boyfriend.  Look for more AMR Fitness Challenge updates coming soon!

I grew up with parents who worked all the time.

Generally, dinner consisted of takeout,  leftovers or whatever was brought home from the restaurants where my parents worked.

During their rare day off, my parents would cook, which, depending on the ingredients, either took all day or a little over an hour.

This kind of home cooking has become old world, left to those who live in throwback societies, whether it’s the Amish, outside first world countries, or your grandparents’ place, it’s rarely done anymore, because our time is too short to spend slaving over a hot stove.

I’m reminded of this daily.

After several enormous life changes, I now find myself with a lot of time on my hands and cooking more than I have in the last 10 years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not cooking five-course meals.  It’s generally preparing dinner for five, instead of getting takeout for one, which was what I was doing as of two months ago.

Chicken pot pie with cream biscuits.

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Pot roast.

Braised chicken in red sauce.

Double chocolate espresso cake.

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Irish beef stew.

Mango coconut custard.

Blueberry or banana pancakes.

These are just some of the things I’ve made from scratch in my new home for my new family.  I’m temporarily unemployed, so as I wait for the next gig, I cook to feel like I’m contributing something to my situation, and I missed cooking anyway, so killing two birds with one stone = WIN!

I’ve been preparing my boyfriend’s breakfast, packing his lunch and making dinner for him for the last two months.

The vast majority I’ve been making from scratch, with the exception of the occasional packaged mixes that still require you to add water, meat, etc. to complete the meal.

My boyfriend thought he was gaining weight because he was eating more than he had before, until last Sunday, when we went shopping at a supermarket and he stepped on the complimentary scale and prepared for the worst.

His brow furrowed.

In the last two months, he has lost seven pounds.

He was perplexed.

How is it he could be eating more food, more often, and yet be down seven pounds?  He’s in his 50s and his metabolism had begun to slow.

This didn’t make sense.

Two months ago, we watched a four-part documentary called “Cooked,” where one of the guests said: “If you want to eat something, make it yourself.  If you want an apple pie, make it from scratch.  Cut the apples, roll the dough.  It’ll take more time, but it’ll be healthier for you.”

Maybe that was it.  We weren’t relying on junk anymore.  Someone was at home, making good food, with less calories over all, and even though he was eating more often, it was doing less damage to his body.

He wasn’t living the single sedentary lifestyle, but taking the occasional walk around town with his girlfriend in hand.

Although I gained back the “New York 10” (the 10 pounds you lose because of the amount of walking you generally do in New York daily), I’m starting to feel my clothes loosen as time passes.

Maybe one of the contributing factors of why more people were thinner back in my grandparents’ time was because they had to make everything from scratch or close to it.

Maybe in our need to have everything now, we’ve lost something essential that bypassed the cooking phase and went straight to stuffing our face.

Whatever it was, it’s good to know it doesn’t take too much to get it back.

Wait, I wonder if this works with barbecue?

Can My Doctor Just STFU About My BMI Please?

 

I recently had my annual physical and I was like pffffft….I’ve got this thing in the bag.

Heart? Sounded A-OK.

Lungs? All clear.

Yes, I wear my safety belt. I drink alcohol in moderation. And no, I don’t smoke.

I was sailing toward a bill of health cleaner than my mother’s kitchen when…

The doctor looked over my paperwork and saw my weight. Hmmmm, she said, for your height and weight, your BMI is high and you are very close to being obese.

For those of you who are not familiar with BMI, or body mass index, it is a conspiracy cooked up by health professionals to figure out new ways to guilt you into losing weight.

It takes into account your height and weight and then comes up with a score to determine if you are like porridge in a Goldilocks fairy tale: Underweight, overweight or just right.

But even at the news about my BMI, I was not fazed.

Then I raised the question that I should have left unasked.

So, doctor, how much weight do I need to lose? (I figured five pounds would be a reasonable answer.)

“Fifteen pounds” came her reply.

The room started to spin.

My righteous indignation started to rise.

Protests began to form on my lips.

Fifteen pounds! Now look here, I work out religiously four to five days a week, at least 30 minutes of hardcore exercise each time.

She acknowledged that was good but said the issue was probably my food intake.

Oh. That.

You mean my beloved cookies the size of Frisbees that I get at the Jefferson Diner in New Jersey?

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You mean the processed snack bars that are promoted as healthy but are still loaded with a bit too much sugar and carbs? Or my less-than-optimal daily intake of vegetables?

In the Supreme Court of Calories, I want to strike a plea bargain.

BMI is an imperfect measure of body fat that was originally intended to assess the obesity rates of a population of people. Applied to individuals, one size does not fit all.

Further, it does not differentiate between fat and muscle, so if you work out with weights (which I do) you could be penalized.

An article in Men’s Health magazine makes the point that you know if you are overweight.

How do your clothes fit? Do you have trouble making it up a flight of stairs? What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Now, it is true that what you eat matters more in some ways than how much you exercise. That is an area where I do have room to improve.

So I’m resolving to try to cut back on my sweets and maybe watch my portion control a little more closely. And maybe extend my workouts a bit each day.

I figure what I have got to lose — except 15 pounds.

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Microwaved Coffee and Other Food Fails

A sign in our kitchen reads: “If it walks out of the refrigerator, let it go.”

I cannot for the life of me imagine why that sign is there.

Ahem.

Ever since my wife and I first got together, my cooking and eating habits (lack thereof and abundance of, in that order) have been the source of rich commentary.

For instance, my wife was horrified — absolutely horrified — when she discovered that I would brew a pot of coffee and then each subsequent morning pour myself a mug of Joe and microwave it.

Within days, she had gotten a plastic coffee filter holder and filters to fit so that I could brew a fresh cup of coffee each morning.

See, the thing with me is that when it comes to food I want to avoid fuss — a four-letter word that begins with F-U and is just as profane.

For quite a while I lived by a recipe book — a term I will use generously — called “A Can, a Man, a Plan.”

It was put out by the same publishers as Men’s Health magazine and offered to simplify healthy meals.

For example, boil up some pasta, open a can of tuna fish, pour onto the pasta, sprinkle it with tomato sauce and shredded cheese and nuke in the microwave.

Presto!

Instructions so simple that even I could follow them. Plus, the meal hardly required much preparation and it was relatively nutritious.

I admire people who are adept in the kitchen and can follow recipes and cook up a storm.

Me?

I will bring into work 3-day-old salad that is seriously past its prime. When my wife Meg protests, I will usually just say with a dismissive wave of the hand, “Oh, it’s fine.”

Leftovers.

Food with freezer burn.

Food that is beyond its expiration (except for meat).

It’s all pretty much fair game for me.

If it passes the sniff test, I’m good.

So you can imagine how grateful and blessed I am to have Meg in my life. Among her abundance of fine qualities, she is an amazingly adept and adventurous cook. My dinners are flavorful and complex and never boring.

Of course, when she is away and I am left to my own devices, I will revert to my sorry ways and fix a bowl of oatmeal for dinner.

I recently bought a low-grade of turkey from the supermarket deli and when I tried to defend it as being equal to a brand name, such as Boar’s Head, Meg said to me: “I love you, but you are no judge.”

She’s right of course.

Well, now if you will excuse me, I have a cup of coffee to microwave.

Liver: It’s What’s (Ick!) for Dinner

As a kid there was always one day a month that mom served us liver.

My dad loved it with onions.

I preferred mine back at the store — in the frozen food aisle.

During the ‘60s and early ‘70s we lived in the Castle Hill housing projects in the Bronx.

Pretty much all of your friends lived in your building. Living in the projects was pretty cool  because when I was told we were having liver, I could just say, “Oh I forgot to tell you mom, Michael downstairs invited me to dinner.”

Michael didn’t yet know it yet, but I would ask him when I would get to school.

And as it would turn out, he was having liver too.

So by school lunchtime, Michael and about three other prospects were all having liver.

Like me, they were trying to escape to another house.

I always had an ace in the hole, Robert, my best friend.

I probably ate at his house nearly every day. Like Rich’s mom, Mrs. R. always had people over. Robert had an older brother and sister around the same age as my older brothers.

Robert’s mom was a great Italian cook and even taught my mom how to make stuffed shells and lasagna.

My mom wondered why I’d always eat there and Mrs. R said that it was because of the sauce, pasta and cheese.

I loved that as they always had salad, pasta, fresh rolls and something with lots of mozzarella on it.

So on this liver-for-dinner day, I cornered Robert right after lunch and asked if I could eat at his house.

I had eaten there most nights anyway and this was a real emergency.

He said sure, that it shouldn’t be a problem. I asked if he knew what his mom was cooking and he said, “Yep, fegato alla veneziana.”

It sounded delicious as it rolled off his tongue with his Italian accent.

I got to Robert’s after telling my mom how I was invited downstairs for dinner.

I walked into their apartment. I recall smelling garlic and hot rolls and my mouth was already watering.

Robert’s older brother and sister were having dinner away at their friends’ houses this evening, so there was plenty for me.

I started with the salad and then the pasta. The main course was served to the table family style and when the lid came off, the smell overpowered me.

And then it dawned on me as I looked toward Robert, who was laughing: Fegato alla veneziana was liver and onions.

Well at least there was hot rolls with mozzarella.

More pasta, please!

liver

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I Worship at the Church of Dunkin’ Donuts

Having spent a week in May in the San Francisco Bay area, I have these observations to report:

* The weather is consistently cool and comfortable.
* The locals are unfailingly polite and helpful.
* Colorful flowers grow easily and in abundance.
* The restaurants are diverse and the food is fresh and flavorful.
* It has accessible, far-reaching mass transit.

There is not a Dunkin’ Donuts in sight.

I’ve never visited a place so inhospitable.

For me, DD is the purveyor of chalices of liquid gold.

Even my wife knows to refer to the familiar pink-and-orange logo as “the holy of holies.”

Indeed, coffee for me is not merely a hot, caffeinated beverage, it is a religion.

I worship at the Church of DD where the first commandment is “Thou shalt have no other coffee before DD; thou shall not brew for yourself any false coffee.”

My wife is dedicated to drinking Starbucks, which I find pretentious and foo-foo. (The coffee, not her.)

She even goes as far as to ascribe certain qualities to Starbucks patrons.

On a recent afternoon, for instance, she was driving and was waiting to make a turn when a considerate motorist yielded so that she could turn.

“Oh,” my wife said. “You are such a nice person. You must be going to Starbucks.”

Sure enough, that is exactly where this driver was headed.

I love my wife but we have a real divergence of opinions when it comes to DD vs. Starbucks.

For me, I do not want any artisanal, free-range coffee beans collected by white-gloved hipsters wearing skinny jeans who put the beans into a satin-line burlap bag and then grind them by hand.

I also do not want my coffee orders to sound like some form of pig Latin: “I’ll have a veni, vidi, vici grande soy latte with a half gainer and a twist.”

Yes, I do in fact own — and proudly wear — a T-shirt that reads “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Starbucks.”

DD shirt

I tend to be pretty proletariat about coffee.

It is a commodity for the masses and rightly ought to be treated and marketed as such.

Coffee is too important to the public well-being to be treated as some upscale elixir that only coffee cognisanti can order.

Recent news coverage affirming once and for all that coffee is not harmful to your health and can actually be beneficial was cause for rejoicing.

So for the sake of your health, and to demonstrate you have good taste, raise a cup of DD coffee to your lips.

If you really must drink Starbucks, treat it as you would a wine tasting: Sip. Swish. Spit.

And then keep on spitting until you’ve reached a Dunkin’ Donuts.

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Battle of the Bulge: The Struggle to Eat Right and Exercise

Every man has had a battle of the bulge.

No, not THAT bulge, you perv! Get your mind outta the gutter!

I’m talking about the bulge ABOVE your belt.

The spare tire.

The love handles.

The beer gut.

Whatever you call it, by the time a guy reaches middle age, his metabolism isn’t what it used to be.

Take me, for instance.

I watch what my teenage son eats at home and I am positively aghast at what he inhales. And when his older brother was home, his butt was constantly sticking out of the fridge, his muffled voice crying out that there was nothing to eat.

But then I recall what I used to eat and drink when I was a teenager.

Back in the day, it was nothing for me to chug almost an entire 64-ounce bottle of Coke.

My food pyramid looked more like a pie chart, with the emphasis on “pie.”

Pizza. McDonald’s. Hot dogs. Fudge brownies.

And Friendly’s ice cream. Those Reese’s peanut butter cup sundaes that come in a goblet big enough to fit both of your fists? Oh yeah, that was my go-to dessert when I was in college.

Through my early to mid-20s, I was able to keep my weight fairly under control. But then came kids, long hours at a stressful job, home ownership and more stress.

Doughnuts and coffee at 3 p.m. followed by peanut butter and chocolate with a Kahlúa-and-milk chaser at midnight did little for my health or waistline.

And here’s the thing: Deep down, I knew I was doing destructive things to my body. I felt it in my bones (literally), my clothes and my energy.

By 2001, I was around 220 pounds and feeling every last ounce of it. I was getting winded going up the stairs.

I buckled down and on my 37th birthday, I put on a 30-minute exercise video. I got through 10 minutes of it and – as Roseanne-Roseannadanna used to say on “Saturday Night Live” – “I thought I was gonna die!”

Fast-forward, and next month I’ll mark my 14th year of my “exercise sobriety.”

I work out an average of four to five times a week. I’m doing P90X and Tony Horton workouts, lifting weights and doing a variety of cardio and other exercises.

Pedro is a similar success story. He’s literally half the man he once was, having lost about 130 pounds. He looks great and dresses like a boss!

In this episode of About Men Radio, Pedro and I discuss our struggles with our weight, what our stress eating habits are like and how we modified our lifestyle to live better.

None of this is easy but it’s to point out that Pedro and I are just like you — dads, husbands and worker-bees with a thousand different push-me-pull-me stresses in our lives.

Share with us stories of your struggles, setbacks and successes at amr@aboutmenshow.com

If we can do it, so can you.

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Summer Jobs: Give Me One With Everything

In honor of Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer, we are resurrecting an earlier post by AMR crew member Richard Rodriguez about a memorable summer job he had.

You may never look at hot dogs the same way. Read on:

It was the mid-1980’s and I was working at a summer job.

I was fortunate to have a neighbor who employed me, God rest his soul, who in his retirement started a small business selling hot dogs from a converted laundry truck that grew into a restaurant on wheels.

He would be up way before the sun, cooking bacon and making gallons of fresh coffee. I would meet him at his favorite spot near a major roadway and start my day serving egg sandwiches, buttered rolls and hot coffee to customers traveling to work.

After the morning rush, we would switch to hot dogs, chili dogs, meatballs, soda, and of course, more coffee, as it seemed that was the universal drink of the workingman.

The days consisted of mad rushes serving a line of people stretching down the block to wondering when the next customer would show up.

It was a long day.

You may wonder where we went to the bathroom, especially since we were also constant drinkers of the magical black elixir.

I typically ran up the street to a friendly furniture store that allowed us to use its facilities. The boss never left the truck, which had a sink and running hot water, as per code, but no bathroom accommodations.

One day during a lull, the boss had to relieve himself of some of that coffee he constantly consumed. (I don’t think I ever saw him without that coffee cup in hand.)

He did not think about hoofing it up to the store where I usually went. Instead, he had a special coffee can with a lid he kept under the counter.

We always wore aprons.

He cautiously looked up and down the street making sure no one was headed our way, and proceeded to take that special can, remove the lid and slid it under his apron.

This was a much-practiced action, as he quickly undid his fly and I heard the stream hitting the bottom of the empty can, all behind the veil of that apron.

Without warning, a group of hungry people appeared by the window and I jumped to start serving them.

The boss had been caught by surprise, but he stealthily removed and capped the can, washed his hands and began serving the customers without missing a beat.

I swear I could not figure out how he did this so quickly. I did not notice him go through the motions of putting it back in his pants or zipping up for that matter.

Yet there he was by my side, with a smile, sliding hot dogs into buns and asking if they wanted sauerkraut or onions.

If these people waiting for their lunch to be served only knew…

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Cookie Monster Confessions

My son enjoys watching a TLC TV series called “My Strange Addiction.”

I’ve never seen it but a quick look at its website reveals bizarre stories of a woman who drinks air freshner​s​ (yes, you read that correctly) and a guy who is addicted to looking like Justin Bieber.

My addiction is nowhere near as strange or unappetizing.

Nah, my addiction is to these monster cookies the size of a car steering wheel that are on sale the Jefferson Diner in Hopatong, N.J.

This place is right along my commute home from New York City, and with its bright neon-lit signs and gleaming chrome exterior, it calls to me practically every night.

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“Come, stop in, and buy a cookie,” it whispers.

And there, on the counter, are three varieties of cookies: Chocolate chip, sprinkles and my new favorite, M&Ms.

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​​I plunk down my $3.50 (worth every cent), carefully unwrap the cellophane covering, and snap ​one ​piece off at a time on my drive home​ as I happily listen to my podcasts.

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It is a guilty pleasure and they are so yummy!

What are your guilty pleasures? What indulgences do you partake in? ​Do you have any strange obsessions?

Share them with us at​ amr@aboutmenshow.com​

 

 

 

 

 

Food As a Substitute for Love

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Proof of that came many years ago during a Valentine’s Day with the guys, future members of the About Men Radio crew.

Unfortunately, none of us had female companions on this amorous holiday so we drowned our frustrations with food.

We ended up at an Italian pizzeria/restaurant, a nice family place.

And then the horror began. It was a Valentine’s Day massacre.

Multiple appetizers, drinks and more appetizers were ordered.

Mozzarella sticks. Bruschetta. Ribs. Wings. Antipasto. Calamari. House salad. French fries… You name it, we ordered it.

Then came our entrees:

Chicken parmigiana. Lasagna. Fettuccini alfredo. Eggplant rolentine. Italian sausage. Ziti. And of course, pizza.

The table was covered with dishes of food; no tablecloth was visible.

Our poor waitress came over and cheerfully offered to take some of the plates away that she thought we were finished with.

With mouths stuffed with food, we all looked up — hunched over the table devouring our meals — and grunted “no.”

Her smile disappeared and it was replaced with fear.

This food orgy went on for some time.

The sounds that emanated from our table were epic.

We shared it all. No dish was left untouched, and no doggy bags went home with us.

I don’t remember if we had dessert, but I’m sure John had coffee, so Gary must have had chocolate cake.

We probably ruined some Valentine’s Day dates and scared some young children, but our stomachs were all satisfied after this gastronomic bacchanalia that took our minds off our lack of female company.

I’m not sure if we ever went back to this place.

They probably had our pictures on the wall with red crossed-out circles through them.

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Baking While Intoxicated

When I was a kid, the weeks leading up to Christmas were literally the sweet spot for my Dad and my sisters and I because Mom would be baking up a storm.

Butter cookies in the shapes of trees and wreaths with colored crystals sprinkled on them, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, linzer tarts, butter cookies with a dollop of melted chocolate in the center…you name it, she was pumping these tasty treats out like crazy in the cramped kitchen of our Bronx apartment.

The sounds of whirring electric beaters and clanging cookie sheets could be heard until well past 10 p.m. as she baked mounds and mounds of cookies for family and friends.

This was also a special time of the year since, as I got older, I could help her in the kitchen to prepare the dough and do KP. I got to spend time at my mother’s elbow learning how to bake, but just as importantly, simply to spend time with her.

Her talents in mass-producing such delectable treats sparked a cat-and-mouse game between Mom and the rest of the family. She would have to hide the many tins brimming with cookies so my sisters and Dad and I would not raid them.

(I recall sneaking cookies from the tins and rearranging the layers so as to hide my tracks and make it appear nothing had been removed. Forget it. I had Dick Tracy for a mother and she could spot the telltale signs of cookie pilfering.)

True story: When in my teens I transcribed many of my mother’s recipes on a typewriter, I included these instructions at the bottom of her butter cookie recipe: “Place into cookie tins and scream at husband and kids for eating them all just before Christmas.”

That notation was but just one example of what a major smart ass I was as a kid. As much as I admired Mom’s baking prowess, it was not beyond the reach of the snarkiness of my young adulthood.

Back then, and even today, Mom liked her cordials and her occasional beer. Well, one night (30 years ago to the month, in fact) she was baking and quaffing her thirst in the hot kitchen with a Michelob beer.

What came next was that she burned a batch of cookies and, separately, realized she forgot to add eggs to one of her cookie doughs!

While it’s more likely that fatigue rather than imbibing contributed to these errors, it was fodder for yours truly to write up a “ticket” for B.W.I: Baking While Intoxicated.

My Mom kept the ticket, lo these many years, and as you can see in the photo I noted under “Course of Action: Lock up all the liquor to prevent nipping. (She has a previous record of making too much merry with Hagen Daz cordial.)”

It was signed by “U.R. Sloshed, Officer in Charge (Kitchen Detail).”

But here’s the thing: No matter how much baking I do, my handiwork still cannot compare to hers – even if she’s been tippling!

 

Food and Culture Come Together at the Holidays

Coquito y Empanadas!

For the past 23 Christmases I have been able to share the joyous holiday spirit with my lovely wife.

We combine two very different Hispanic cultures and customs.

To outsiders, Hispanics all seem to be the same because we share the same language from the mother country of Spain, Hispanics vary widely in words, customs and traditions.

Caribbean Hispanics differ from Central American Hispanics, and those differ immensely from South American Hispanics.

To compound the issue further, there are smaller subsets of those major groups that also differ from each other. But it is that diversity that strengthens us.

The blend of Hispanic traditions and cultures is huge in my family.

My wife hails from the northern part of Puerto Rico — the Bronx. (I kid.) Yes, she was born in the Bronx, but her Puerto Rican heritage is strong and forged by very many long summer vacations in Puerto Rico.

For my part, I was born in Argentina, the southernmost of Hispanics. I lived many years of my childhood in Argentina.

So through marriage we combined our cultures and traditions and no place is it more apparent than during the holidays.

From the pernil and pasteles at Thanksgiving to the asado on Christmas Eve, foods blend and bring together the cultures.

So this Christmas, like so many before, I proudly make a Coquito recipe entrusted to me by my wife’s aunt from Puerto Rico and I also will indulge in a batch of my Mom’s Argentine empanadas.

But, of course, I will share with friends. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas y Feliz Navidad!

About Food: Living in Two Worlds

Like many immigrants I am a product of two cultures. I live in the United States but was raised in a Puerto Rican household. That cultural dichotomy can be difficult to navigate but the food I grew up eating helps keep me firmly in touch with my Latin-American heritage.

My mother and grandmother were the rulers of the kitchen as a kid and while they would admit to not being world class chefs, they had their specialties.  I will on occasion try cooking a pork shoulder like my mother made with varying degrees of success but that hardly matters. The aromas have already anchored me securely to my Boricua roots.

This multimedia piece was produced for the “Coming to the Table” series from Feet In Two Worlds.

About Food: The Place to be Was Always The Kitchen

Growing up in a household and family where so much revolved around the kitchen stays with you forever, and I owe my cooking chops and style to the women in my family, especially my mother and her sisters.

When asked to talk about how I learned to cook and who influenced me most, it took me back to my childhood and how social it was when my mom and aunts prepared meals for the family. The kitchen was the best place to be, not only for food but to catch up on family, history, and gossip.

I try to continue this with my own kids and encourage them to make meals, experiment and be together as a family at as many meals as possible. I am happy to share these experiences and memories with Fi2W and my fellow hosts of About Men Radio.

What is your story?

This multimedia piece was produced for the “Coming to the Table” series from Feet In Two Worlds.

About Food: A Gaucho Tradition Handed Down…From Mom

In Argentina, manly traditions are generally handed down from father to son. Gaucho traditions such as using a facón (a gauchos’ personal knife), throwing boleadoras (a gaucho’s hunting weapon), or making an asado (a gaucho grilled meat feast) are typically the domain of men.

Not so in the la Frossia household.

I am a man with strong Argentine roots but the art of an asado was passed on to me by Mom, not dad. I learned the process, preparation and grilling techniques of a traditional Argentine asado from her, and display the effectiveness of those lessons on special occasions with family and friends.  My plan is to build a traditional stone Argentine parrilla (grill) for future asados but will bow to tradition.

I’ll be the one teaching my sons and daughter how to prepare the asado for their families.

This multimedia piece was produced for the “Coming to the Table” series from Feet In Two Worlds.

About Food: A Man With a Plan

Growing up in a house where your mom is first-generation German and dad is second-generation Italian can make for conflicting culinary choices. Because I was a fussy eater (and so too were my younger sisters), mom tended to make pasta and gravy (red sauce) every other Sunday to appeal to our simple tastes. But mom was a first-rate baker who could whip up cookies, pies and cakes — all of which appealed to everyone!

This multimedia piece was produced for the “Coming to the Table” series from Feet In Two Worlds.

About Food: An Autumn Staple

As a kid, my mom would make a lot of Irish and American dishes,  Meatloaf, potatoes, and string beans was a regular staple.  However each autumn, my mom would assemble the ingredients for beef stew. When I finally moved out on my own, my parents wanted to know if I was eating, so I decided to make Mom’s beef stew.  I used her recipe and it was a hit.  My parents minds were at ease because if I could cook that, they knew I was OK.

This multimedia piece was produced for the “Coming to the Table” series from Feet In Two Worlds.

Don’t Believe This Photo, Confucius Was Wrong

I guess I should start by giving you some background on me.

My undergraduate major is in biology.

My first job was as a research technician for the chairman of one of the most prestigious hospital dermatology departments in the country, and my graduate degree is in social work, focusing on clinical psychotherapy.

I tell you all of this to let you know that I am well steeped in the scientific method. Things pretty much have to be proven before I accept them.

That said, I have to tell you unequivocally that I fully believe in the power of fortune cookies.

Let me explain.

My moment of epiphany happened when I was 21.

I had a part-time job as a stock clerk with the Purchasing Department of our local city government while I was attending undergrad.

It was my last day on the job before going to work at NYU, and the office staff decided to order Chinese food for lunch.

After lunch, I picked a fortune cookie and opened it.

Three days before going to work in medical research, the fortune read, “You will find much success in the field of medical research.”

After the initial wave of disbelief waned, a deeper sense of trying to figure out how my co-workers had perpetrated such an elaborate and inventive hoax took over.

Some salient points to consider:

1.  I myself chose the cookie out of the six that were included with our lunches.

2.  I immediately demanded to see everyone else’s cookies, all of which contained different fortunes, and

3. The fortune was very specific, not a generality that people sometimes make fit into their life experiences.

Granted that the term, “Much success” is relative, but, considering that I eventually was listed as a co-author on a research paper published in one of the field’s highest regarded journals,  I guess you could say that the fortune was fairly on target.

More than three decades later, after countless hours (of course, for me, that phrase typically means anything over 10…), I have never been able to explain that uncanny fortune, thereby making me a true believer in fortune cookies.

If you can somehow explain it other than by the fortune cookie gods smiling down on me that day, please drop me a note. I am more than willing to entertain other explanations.

Now please excuse me.

I need to go get some Chinese food. I’m dying to know what’s going to happen to me next.

Gimme One With Everything

It was the mid-1980’s and I was working at a summer job.

I was fortunate to have a neighbor who employed me, God rest his soul, who in his retirement started a small business selling hot dogs from a converted laundry truck that grew into a restaurant on wheels.

He would be up way before the sun, cooking bacon and making gallons of fresh coffee. I would meet him at his favorite spot near a major roadway and start my day serving egg sandwiches, buttered rolls and hot coffee to customers traveling to work.

After the morning rush, we would switch to hot dogs, chili dogs, meatballs, soda, and of course, more coffee, as it seemed that was the universal drink of the workingman.

The days consisted of mad rushes serving a line of people stretching down the block to wondering when the next customer would show up.

It was a long day.

You may wonder where we went to the bathroom, especially since we were also constant drinkers of the magical black elixir.

I typically ran up the street to a friendly furniture store that allowed us to use its facilities. The boss never left the truck, which had a sink and running hot water, as per code, but no bathroom accommodations.

One day during a lull, the boss had to relieve himself of some of that coffee he constantly consumed. (I don’t think I ever saw him without that coffee cup in hand.)

He did not think about hoofing it up to the store where I usually went. Instead, he had a special coffee can with a lid he kept under the counter.

We always wore aprons.

He cautiously looked up and down the street making sure no one was headed our way, and proceeded to take that special can, remove the lid and slid it under his apron.

This was a much-practiced action, as he quickly undid his fly and I heard the stream hitting the bottom of the empty can, all behind the veil of that apron.

Without warning, a group of hungry people appeared by the window and I jumped to start serving them.

The boss had been caught by surprise, but he stealthily removed and capped the can, washed his hands and began serving the customers without missing a beat.

I swear I could not figure out how he did this so quickly. I did not notice him go through the motions of putting it back in his pants or zipping up for that matter.

Yet there he was by my side, with a smile, sliding hot dogs into buns and asking if they wanted sauerkraut or onions.

If these people waiting for their lunch to be served only knew…