Sunday, October 14, 2012

Visiting the beach

Since forever, Gene has been wanting to go to the beach.  Just go dip his feet into the water, get some sun and generally go on a tiny vacation. We finally made our reservations and went hopping, skipping and traveling down the back roads to Port Aransas - someplace I hadn't been to in like forever.  One of my favorite parts was going over to the Island on the public ferry - I just love ferries.  Port Aransas is a smaller laid back sort of town a little north-east from Corpus Christi.  You reach it by going over bay to where is sits between the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay. 

We stayed at a funky little cottage style motel called A Laughing Horse Lodge, all painted in bright coast colors of hot pink, turquoise blue and lime green.   it was enjoyable in an old fashioned Texas beach town sort of way.  is the slide show of our room.  Since we had a kitchenette we cooked a bit... we're being careful with our money these days and even that was pretty fun.  I think the room was half the fun, it was so close to the beach and really nice.  We found a very simple homey restaurant that the locals eat at when they grow tired of fish (although we had some really tasty fried grouper for lunch). 

We hit the beach in the early evening and I carefully waded in the shallow part while Gene ventured out further.  It was somewhat windy but we managed to stay out for over an hour before it grew to dark and misty for us to stay out.  Our next day we ventured out  for more but before going to the actual beach we had managed to visit the Leonabelle Turnball Birding Center in Port Aransas and identified a great many birds, including hummingbirds, spoonbills, grebes, cormorants and such. It's part of the Port Aransas Wetlands Park and we did walk around the rushes and the rest of the marsh plants. Lots of both white and brown pelicans.   Gene found a friendly nature photographer who told him we needed to come out early to see the gators.  After the view from the observation piers we headed out to a glorious day of sun, sand and water. I finally thought of how to sit on the sand and let the water roll over me.  Port Aransas sand is extremely fine so it had a tendency to pull us down.  We looked for shells but saw very little although the little butterfly shells could still be found.   Later we realised in our enthusiasm we hadn't covered all of us with the proper sun screen so we both had some sunburn.  But isn't that part of the beach as well. 

Friday saw us heading out going up the coast to the Rockport-Fulton area which is a lovely town on the bay side of the Gulf.  we really loved it and have decided we need to come back and look at it slower.  It's a nice quiet fishing tourist town with some lovely vacation homes, sculptures and mounds of windswept trees rushing and mounding over the area. It's decidedly a more posh sort of area than Port A, filled with large expensive boats and huge vacation homes right on the bay itself.

 I really loved the Big Blue Crab which perches on its pedestal near the water.  This area is noted for it's Blue Crab and Stone Crab.  We decided to try to go crabbing next time on the coast. You can get a day license to fish for them and that's about all we'd need. 

 We also found places where they have tried to reuse the remains of hurricane destroyed houses to build up the shoreline.  Very practical and very sad at the same time.  I found a bit of lovely blue tile that seems to fit right in along the shore as well as a random house number.  There were a free vacant lots and open areas from previous hurricanes as well.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cooking and food

   This weekend I made a pineapple upside down cake.  It's not something I make normally but I had part of a fresh pineapple, some almond meal and the desire to use things we buy.  We get great ideas in my house... I always have something odd stuck on the shelf - either I've bought or he has "found" that sounds really good.  He teaches chess for a living and has a great many Asian and Indian students.  They are generous to their "coach" and often send home jars of sauce, or if he stops in at a small Asian market he picks up something they have at home he's liked.  If I'm making something and ask for him to pick up a random ingredient he will likely bring home two kinds unless I'm very specific.  Saturdays we usually have dinner with my best friend and his partner so I thought it would be perfect to make something for dessert.  Hence the pineapple upside down cake.  It turned out well and we all enjoyed it.

But it got me thinking about how I learned to cook...What was your first step in figuring out how to make stuff.  My family cooked - well back them processed food was more or less a luxury.  My mom and her sisters had grown up in the Depression so they made do quite a bit.  My favorite foods from my grandmother were what I now call depression foods or World War II food.  She served us corn dodgers (her version of hush puppies), spam and had mountains of canned goods.  I played build a fort with those but have a strong memory of tinned peaches.

My mom was a member of the Eastern Star and every month would help cook up the monthly dinner held by the Masonic lodge with whom her group was partnered.  She would always bring home some leftovers.  But I have no memory of her teaching me cook.  I watched her some and when I needed to earn the cooking badge for my girl scout troop she showed me how to make a variety of eggs - scrambled, fried, soft-boiled and hard-boiled. I still have her cookbook given to her by a friend when she was married in 1946.  The favorite part is eating for the war and how to save for the troops, including growing a victory garden.   Dad, coming from new Orleans would sometimes cook something like gumbo and he once made a killer orange juice cook cake that I still haven't found a recipe anywhere although a friend said his grandmother made a similar cake,

Even as a teen and living with my aunt, I didn't cook much.  It wasn't until I was on my own I started figuring out how to make things.  It started out with beans and rice since that was pretty much all I could afford, I slowly branched out and tried new things.  I joined a food co-op and bought grains and such in bulk with them.  I worked at eating places and slowly drifted into cooking.  I joined a re enactment group and learned to do a lot of major cooking for large groups. 

I just fell in love with cooking, the whole journey from raw ingredients to finished product.  I enjoy the sharing of it.  I found I love reading cookbooks and learning about cultures through their food.  Mostly I just love watching people eat when I've created.