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Durian October 29, 2008

Posted by Fritz in Food.
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I like to cook.  As an active preparer of food and an eager eater of the same, anything epicurean is of interest.  I will admit to a guilty pleasure of watching a few of the more than abundant cooking shows on cable.  While I can appreciate the talent, skill and time needed to achieve the level of culinary expertise  to succeed on programs like Iron Chef or the Food Network’s Food Network Challenge, I prefer the more down to earth programming that features regional specialties I could probably prepare myself. Shows like Alton Brown’s Good Eats on the Food Network,  Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on the Travel Channel rank as my favorites. Bourdain’s No Reservations is number one in my cookbook because he mixes travel to exotic places with the exploration of the local fare.  It was during a show, shot in South East Asia, that he introduced me to durian, the infamous ‘King of Fruits’.  The fruit is not very well known outside that part of the world.  Both revered and reviled, it has quite a story.

The 'King of Fruit'

“The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Regarded by some as fragrant, others as overpowering and offensive, the smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust. The odor has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.”  (From Wikipedia) 

Several days ago I saw an article in my local newspaper mentioning a local Asian food market selling durian.  I promptly headed off in search of the ‘King of Fruits’.

As I walked through this great little store I passed an Asian man with a hand basket brimming with products.  He happened to pause long enough as we passed (the shop’s aisles were tiny) and I saw a container of frozen durian sitting on top. An amazing coincidence! I immediately headed for the freezer and pulled the last box off the shelf.  I did notice an intact specimen, at the bottom of the freezer.   It was almost round with menacing spikes protruding from every inch of it’s skin. Bigger than a softball but smaller than a volleyball. The color was a greenish brown.

The frozen fruit was pre-packaged in a clear plastic container that was hermetically sealed from the outside.  I could see each of the three pieces of fruit inside were also wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Obviously there was an issue with smell.

After I got home I eagerly read the packaging, most of which was in Thai. I don’t read Thai but I know enough to recognize the hieroglyphs as that language. (my other clue was ‘Product of Thailand’  printed under the UPC code) The directions said to thaw out the fruit, under refrigeration, before consuming.  I put one of the cellophane wrapped durian balls, about the size of two golf balls smooshed together, on a plate in the refrigerator and waited.  Six hours later I checked the progress.  As soon as I opened the refrigerator door I immediately smelled the durian.  As the fruit warmed the famous odor began to present itself.  While I can’t say it was an overly offensive smell, I can say it wasn’t strawberries and bananas either.  It was truly a unique odor that fell into the category of rotting onions and old cheese.  No particular cheese, just old.

Intrigued, I pulled the plate out of the fridge and began unwrapping the cellophane, concerned that the smell would somehow suddenly overwhelm me when the plastic was removed.  It didn’t.  It was stronger but not as bad as I expected.  The fruit was a pale yellow, reminding me of the color newsprint gets when exposed to sunlight.  I scooped a very small amount onto a spoon and reminded myself that this was the ‘King of Fruits’.  My tongue’s first sensation was it was still rather cold. Then the custardy smoothness surprised me. The taste was actually the third sensation to register.  In a word, weird.  Not particularly pleasent but I also hadn’t thrown up yet.  As the fruit dissolved in my mouth the initial rotting/cheesy/whatever taste evolved into a unique, slightly sweet, almost pleasant ending. I was beginning to see how this fruit had earned it’s reputation. 

I tried 3 or 4 more spoonfuls, hoping it would grow on me.  It didn’t.  I carefully wrapped up the remaining fruit and popped it back into the freezer.  Minus 32 degrees Fahrenheit was the only defense against the smell. So what to do with the rest of this freak of the fruit world?  My wife and 15 year-old daughter both flatly rejected even trying it and I couldn’t see throwing it away at almost $20 a pound.  There has to be a way to use this in a recipe that retains the unique qualities of the fruit while still being appetising.

I’m searching…and when I find it, I’ll let you know. Also— please pass along any durian family recipes!

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Self Worth October 24, 2008

Posted by Fritz in Spiritual.
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A well-known preacher started off his seminar by holdingup a $20.00 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?” Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this. He proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar bill. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air. Well, he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air. My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who DO LOVE you. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or who we know, but by WHO WE ARE and WHOSE WE ARE. You are special- Don’t EVER forget it.”

…i stole this from http://finchleymusic.wordpress.com/

Saying Goodbye October 22, 2008

Posted by Fritz in Yachts and other things that float.
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I got back today from Kalamazoo, Michigan.  That’s where my Aunt lived and where her funeral was held.  It was an impressive affair held at the First Presbyterian Church downtown.  It’s a gorgeous traditional, neo-Gothic stone church with pointed arches, carved oak alter and chancel.  The floor is a highly polished flagstone which looked even more impressive illuminated by the light passing through the stainglass windows high up in the clerestory. The pipes of the massive  organ lined the rear wall of the nave and their soaring sound resonated magnificently among the stone and oak.   Missy’s friends filled the church with almost every pew full.

Her best friend, Linda Brown, wrote a wonderful tribute. She was afraid emotion was going to overwhelm her ability to speak so she had her son read those amazing words for her.  It was a heartfelt story that painted an incredible picture of a friendship that lasted nearly 50 years.

That was followed by three of Missy’s grandchildren reading their own personal memories.  The tears really began to flow as each one became overwhelmed with the words they were reading. Pure love was never more evident. Then two of Missy’s sons spoke. Rick was first and offered a beautiful tribute to his mother.  I was also struck by my cousin Charlie’s eloquence. I was a bit concerned when he announced his mother was like a marine, and started to weave a story using military metaphors to describe her various attributes.  My fears were unfounded as his tale was well crafted and wonderfully presented.

We sang amazing grace and recited the Lord’s Prayer and we all said goodbye to Sara Jane Bald, our Missy.

Zorkie – Room To Fall October 18, 2008

Posted by Fritz in Music I fancy.
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  • Zorkie – Room To Fall

    One of the unexpected benefits of having a 15-year old daughter is staying in touch with the current music scene.  As much as I hate to admit, there is life after Classic Rock.  Last year, my daughter had a six-week crush on a young man who impressed me not only for his musical choices but because he actually looked me in the eye when he shook my hand and managed to string more than 3 words together when conversing.

    He shared a CD with my daughter of one of his favorite musicians.  My daughter wasn’t taken by the music but she did mention, ‘that’s the kind of music my Dad would like’.  The young man’s stock went even higher when he offered to let me copy his disc. I had never heard of Zorkie but I sure did like what I heard.  I don’t know if Zorkie is his first or last name.  My Google search found an old Face Book entry that seems now to be deleted.  I was able to glean that he lives in North Carolina, via NYC.  He’s played with some big names and his two CD’s are now available on ITunes; Room To Fall and Zorki.

    I have Room To Fall.  It’s a wonderful eclectic disc with masterful performances all around.  Really tasty stuff. Somebody needs to discover this guy and make him famous.  I sure hope his career lasts  longer than my daughter’s next boyfriend.

I’m going to miss my Aunt Missy October 18, 2008

Posted by Fritz in Yachts and other things that float.
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My Aunt Missy died Thursday morning.  She succumbed to cancer.  The mixed blessing was she passed so very quickly and, I pray, the pain of lingering —but she left us before many could say goodbye.  She leaves three sons; my first cousins, a brother and her mother here on earth.

Missy was married to my Uncle Fritz, my name sake and my mother’s brother.  Fritz died almost 15 years ago. He was far too young.  Only 59.

Missy’s boys, Charlie, Rick and Jon will say goodbye on Monday.  I will be there too.

Aunt Missy had a very dry humor and she measured her words carefully.  To those who knew her, her facial reaction, or lack thereof, spoke volumes.  I can’t ever remember her raising her voice in anger.  I’m sure she did though…she had three boys.

Summers in Michigan on Crystal Lake was where it all happened.  Missy’s cottage was center stage and she shared it generously.  She adored her grandchildren and made sure their time spent at the Lake was the best.  So much love.

Summers will be different now.  I”m still going to say I’m going to Aunt Missy’s when I visit the cottage.  But I’ll miss her smile and her great hugs.  I’ll miss her humor and her chili dip.

I’ll miss the special love she had for each one of us.

A Quote October 13, 2008

Posted by Fritz in Yachts and other things that float.
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We must believe in free will — we have no choice.

Isaac Bashevis Singer