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Tag Archive: lasagna

Mar 04

A good excuse not to cook

Something is askew in my kitchen, and the problem begins with lasagna.

My lasagna specialty is an all-day affair, or it used to be.

Lasagna, properly made, takes time, as any good cook knows.

The sauce must be cooked slowly for hours. The noodles must be perfectly prepared and layered carefully in the baking dish. Seasoning takes awhile to accomplish its mission in lasagna; it cannot be rushed. Lasagna must not be served immediately and needs to cool and solidify.

The key to excellent lasagna demands one very important ingredient—time.

And, time is what is currently out of kilter in my kitchen.

“Once upon a time”, no pun intended, I made my “all-day lasagna” for important family occasions several times a year.

In those days, I joked that I even stomped my own tomatoes, just like Lucy crushed grapes with her feet in the wine vat. Remember her famous I Love Lucy episode, Lucy’s Italian Movie?

Cooking lasagna, or just about anything else, gets cock-eyed fast if one tries to skip steps and hurry things along.

Thus, “not enough time” is a wonderful excuse to avoid cooking.

One must not hurry the culinary arts.

Experts say that lack of time should not be an excuse. Everyone knows time is plentiful for “empty-nesters”.

It is my observation, however, that time, just like an empty closet, tends to fill up no matter how often you clear your calendar.

Additionally, lack of time is not my only justification for having an aversion to the kitchen these days.

Truth is, that those of us who have cooked for decades, are burned out.

I used to say I cooked for a hay crew. Actually, it was just four boys and a husband who ate two or three meals at home each day.

Classic burnout.

There are exceptions, however, to those of us who dodge cooking.

My friend Beth still loves to cook, so she gets a cookbook for Christmas from me. Paige gets one, too. They are excellent cooks and still seem to enjoy it, although I have no idea why. Personally, I just like the pictures.

My cousin, Dorothy, agrees with me and says she would just as soon take a bull dozier to her kitchen as not.

Many other women I know, who have cooked for eons, say they never cook anymore either.

In some cases, husbands may take up cooking as a hobby, so dinners are possible in a few households.

I must confess that I do love “food TV” and stars, Emeril Lagosse and Paula Deen. I have eaten in each of their restaurants, Emeril’s in New Orleans and Paula’s in Savannah, Georgia. No problem with that aspect of cooking. Let them be the experts—I’ll just enjoy their dishes from the dining room and stay far from the kitchen!

Most of my women friends, when asked if they still cook, simply answer, “Cook? I haven’t cooked all week. Actually, I do not remember when I cooked last.”

Others just laugh at the absurdity of the question.

Who cooks?

Apparently, not even young single women.

Take Bridget Jones for instance. She gives quite a lot of cooking advice in her book, “Bridget Jones’s Guide to Life.”

In her chapter entitled, “The Art of Cuisine”, Bridget Jones offers this guidance:

1.     “It is best if possible not to try actually to cook anything at all.”

2.     “It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of timing—a good cook is a strategist as well as a craftsman—always have everything ready you will need before you start, e.g. phone numbers, cash, names of restaurants, and take-outs.”

As for me, I am already in the car waiting if anyone even mentions the word “restaurant.”

I wonder if there is a job out there where all I have to do is take people out to eat. For that, I have all the time in the world.

Dec 31

Traditions follow us into the New Year

There is an old Sicilian tradition that says good luck will come to those who eat lasagna on New Year’s Day!

Laughing at that are you?

Better take heed. The folklore surrounding that custom also says that macaroni or any other noodle consumed on New Year’s Day will bring you bad luck.

In my family in my growing up years, we got a jump on the New Year’s Day lasagna custom.

On Christmas Day, we would feast on lasagna and boiled or deep-fried shrimp.  Looking back, I can only attribute that observance to the fact that my mother spent a lot of time in Italy and my dad spent a lot of time in San Diego.

Proof positive– my brother, en route from Colorado to Missouri for the holidays, called to ask, “Should I bring the shrimp? You are having lasagna aren’t you?”

Some might find that odd, but, to me, it was as normal as any time-honored tradition could possibly be.

In Missouri, most folks stick to the custom of serving turkey or ham with all the fixin’s for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I used to become embarrassed when a friend would ask, “So what are you cooking for the holidays?”

“Oh, the usual,” I would say to avoid saying, “lasagna and shrimp.”


Then, along comes New Year’s Eve, when we tend to join the common norm and serve our best horsd’oevres and the bubbly, just like everyone else.

Since we have already had lasagna for Christmas, I figure we are set for New Year’s Day.

Good luck is most assuredly “in the bag” or in the lasagna as the case may be.

Incidentally, there are other New Year’s Day practices that bear some mention, although they may not be quite as unique as the “lasagna brings good luck” one.

A quick internet search found these curious yet extraordinary customs practiced by folks around the globe. All are guaranteed to bring good luck and good fortune:

  • In England, the first guest or visitor of the New Year should be male and should bring gifts. All visitors who arrive too early and empty-handed, and presumably, all females, must wait on the guy bearing gifts before they can enter. That doesn’t exactly get a party off to a great start!
  • In Spain, when the clock strikes midnight, one must eat 12 grapes, one with each toll. Each grape brings good luck for each month of the year ahead.  Wow…you would have to be really good at eating grapes fast! Think about it.
  • Meanwhile, in Peru, those folks are eating grapes, too, on each strike of the clock, precisely at midnight. However, in Peru, one must consume a 13th grape, to seal the deal—now, good luck will be yours!
  • In Wales, at the first strike of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve, one must run to the back door and open and close it. This sends all the bad luck of the current year out the door where it is locked out forever. Then, one must run quickly to the front door in order to open that just as the clock strikes 12.  This practice welcomes in the good luck of the New Year.
  • In the United States, folks traditionally share a kiss that symbolizes purification and welcomes in the good fortune of the New Year.

Consider this:

What would it be like if one tried to practice all these customs at once?

The clock is starting to toll midnight. With the first strike, quick eat a grape. Then, run to the back door, open and close it, while eating a grape on each strike of the clock. Run to the front door and let in the new good luck of the New Year, all fresh and clean, but be careful, all-the-while, to not let in a female guest who does not bear gifts. Now, everyone kiss.

Wait, hold the phone.

We forgot about the 13th grape.

This could be a game show.

Lasagna on New Year’s Day seems a whole lot easier.

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