Snow Food

It hasn’t really snowed yet. At least not according to my adaptive measuring Michigan-ness. That would have to be at least 5 inches. We’ve had a few flaky days; an early artistic dusting of trees. Trust me, I’m fine with this. Never cared for snow.

Jeff loved it. “Oh, good!” He’d exclaim. “Cook and cuddle!”

Jeff did the cooking. I was occasionally asked to participate in pre-preparation. I did the most cuddling. Either with a cat or a dog, but always with a book.

Winter Food. Recipes that only warranted their worth in work in weather cold enough. A not-really-needed excuse to fill the house with warm scents and the extra added nostalgic heated residue of a warm open oven.

Chicken Noodle Soup without the noodles, but with finely diced onion, carrot and celery. Jeff was absolutely tickled when he discovered there was a name for that. Mirepoix became a staple shout in our house.

“I’mma making zee mere pawx,” he’d call-out, purposefully mispronouncing in a horribly ridiculous, entirely undefinable accent. He made his own egg noodles, once or twice. Decided it wasn’t worth it. Dumplings and kniffles worked just as well.

Meatloaf and mashed. That’s where I learned that adding cream cheese or sour cream and/or whole cream to the mash made them silky smooth, creamy. There were no lumps in Jeff’s potatoes, unless he wanted them to be there. If he wanted them to be there, it was because he’d decided to make smashed potatoes. “Not the same thing.”

Adding a healthy handful or two of ground sausage to the ground beef made meatloaf heavenly. Oh, there was goulash and paprikash. Chili and scratch biscuits, too.

Jeff made bread by hand. When I say ‘by-hand’ I mean by hand – hand kneaded, no bread maker. Glass Corning Ware mixing bowls of proofing dough were common on Friday night. The very first he tried was rye bread, chosen for my tastes. It was deliciously denser than any I’d ever had; heavy and filling. Thickly-sliced slabs, steaming warm from the oven, slathered in butter – mmmm.

Maybe, snow’s not so bad after all.

Quote for the Week: 2018 12 11 Recurrently inherited cooking basics often arrive jakorte

Smokin’ Sweet

Jeff would probably be unhappy that I am sharing these photos.

He adamantly wanted to be cremated, no open casket. “So, no one will have to carry my lard-a**,” he insisted. And, because he didn’t want people to remember him that way.

But, for those of us who loved him, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to get stuck on that. We’re going to be too enraptured by his normal, larger than life joy.

And for those of you who didn’t know him, I hope you might start to feel like you did. 

There are a couple things worth pointing out.

1. He’s got hot sauce everywhere!

2. Some of those spots left slight burn marks on him.

3. That’s his Dad, Roger, in the background. 

4.  Dale Jr. Budweiser hat, MHSC embroidered logo shirt, half-wrapped legs, socks with sandals, and pukka shell choker which he would argue was definitely not a “necklace.’

5. Bottles of varying Scoville. Only a few I can make out: Michigan Hot Sauce Club, Ass-Kickin’, Bee Sting, El Yucateco, and one hot sauce bottle with an eyedropper – most likely Blair’s Reserve or Dave’s Ultimate Insanity – waivers required.

6. A craft table, a tasting table, and the flatbed, still attached to the truck. I still have an awesome handmade raised-potting bed, which I keep full of artificial plants, including a pretty realistic hot pepper pot.

The hard work Jeff put in was impressive.  Even as far back as my initial hesitation, my heart and gut were already swaying me. Not specifically knowing what lay ahead, I somehow chose the path of no-regret.

Following Jeff, I did my best to run behind him and jump ahead of him; proud of his accomplishment and thrilled that most of my worrying was for naught. 

The end result was a jump-up in community awareness and an amazing increase in sales. The financial risk paid off. By the end of August 2006, in just our third operational year, we had broken even  – for the year. Before the holiday season had begun!

The success was smokin’ sweet. We did it, but couldn’t have without  huge amounts of help from friends and family, Tecumseh and Adrian small business owners, and BNI members. Most importantly, we did it together. 

2018 11 13 salsapalooza event

 

All Fired Up!

When Jeff had a dream, he dreamt big. He’d laugh and call it a vision.

And it would always begin with, “Suppose…”

All of our Michigan Hot Sauce Club store open house events began that way. We held tastings. Jeff made snappy dips, fiery cheeseballs and poured crab salsa over cream cheese. We’d line up 5 jars of salsa or 5 bottles of hot sauce or 5 bowls of fiery snacks/candy/cookies, labeling each with a heat index. Mostly, to protect the mild lovers from accidentally dipping into anything Blair’s or Dave’s Insanity.

He developed some unique chili – bean and corn, no-bean burger, smoked jalapeno brisket, and an amazing white bean chicken bright green chili, that took its color from an awesome sauce named Swap Scum.

My favorite heated creation was the Spicy Texas Sheet cake.  Such a perfect combination of cocoa and sugar and spice. I tried to make it once without him. It just wasn’t the same. I followed his recipe verbatim, but it lacked Jeff’s magic touch.

That’s not a flighty compliment. I firmly believe everything came out scrumptious simply because Jeff believed it would. Just as I know, he truly meant it when he said everything will be fine, even though it most likely wouldn’t. It was an admirable trait, which occasionally annoyed me to exasperation.

Yes, GOD would provide, but He gave us brains to figure out how we could help ourselves, as well. I was a disaster planner. Jeff was a ‘let’s see how this goes’ guy. Stress begets stress, but Jeff deflected well.

I’d say, “If this… then that.” He’d say, “Ok.”

I’d say, “But, if that, then this other thing.” Jeff would say, “Ok.”

I’d say, “Unless that other thing turns into another thing.” Jeff would say, “Let’s just see what happens.”

His weekly BNI meeting had incubated an idea he was all fired-up about. Pun intended; that was Jeff’s favorite tag line.

In fact, each meeting he would come up with a variation or punny description. “MHSC, the biggest little hot sauce store east of the Mississippi!” On Thanksgiving, it was the biggest little hot sauce store west of Turkey. On Halloween, it was the scariest little hot sauce store in Tecumseh. It became his trademark – members would look forward to what he would say next.

One evening, I came home to Jeff’s biggest “Suppose…”, yet.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 23 theres no reason to dream small jakorte