05 December 2008


I love to cook. In the past I spent years in the fine wine and gourmet food business. In those days, Mrs. Giuseppe and I ate like royalty on a fairly regular basis. I only drank 'real' wine, and there were always multiple blocks of imported cheese, fine chocolate, specialty meats and the like in our kitchen. It helped that I was a buyer for the places I worked, and the samples and bribes from distributors and sales reps was non stop. That was in the old days before children and unemployment. Now we mostly eat noodle based casseroles that can reheat for three days and whichever meat is on sale this week at 'More for your Dollar' Market Basket, where there is sawdust on the floor.

For my birthday, my parents gave me a cast iron griddle pan and $50. My dad also likes to cook, so he's always got a good eye for kitchen tools:So what to do with the money? There was no question in my mind, the answer was simple. Real meat and real wine.

So I went to Bob's Imported Foods in Medford, where there is an actual butcher counter, and purchased 0.92 lbs of thick juicy steak:A side note on Bob's: I love places like this. It is packed to the seams with every Italian delicacy known to man, but the atmosphere is very down home, my grandparents kind of people. They don't sell this stuff because yuppies like prosciutto, they sell it because back when they opened the store the neighborhood was full of Italians. For them this is just normal nourishment. The lack of pretension here is rare, especially for a 'gourmet' establishment.

Then I headed to the wine lover's secret, a local packie whose name I refuse to divulge. The place is sandwiched between some housing projects and a crummy supermarket. They specialize in 1.75 liter closeouts, 40 ounce beers, and $1 nips. But the wine department is full of downright ridiculous bargains if you know what's what, such as this:

I remember when the 2000 vintage of Bordeaux first hit the stores. The press was outrageous, it was being touted unanimously as the best vintage in Bordeaux in a century. The wines were great, right on down to the cheapies, and they were gone in a matter of months, all of them. But that scummy little packie ( packie: noun, short for 'package store', Massachusetts slang for a low brow liquor store, for those who don't know) magically has this Medoc for less than $20. They also sell nips of Bushmills 10 year old single malt for $1. Must be a mob front, or else they're hosting after hours cock-fights in the basement, or something.

So, pan+meat+a little bit of danish blue cheese+wine+roasted squash with red onion and sage+baby spinach in a homemade Dijon mustard vinaigrette= happy.

Finish the whole thing off with a thick slice of 1930's style carrot cake, with candied pineapple, golden raisins and cream cheese frosting, courtesy of Mrs. G:

I do miss this kind of stuff, but my tendency towards iron-clad stinginess make these treats all the more delectable. It was good in the old days when we ate this way a lot. Tonight it was like the food of the gods.

p.s. In reading this post back to myself, I realized that even though I titled this one 'splurge' i talked most about a bargain on wine and a homey neighborhood store. I guess I really am far gone.

p.p.s. we're headed to a holiday party tomorrow night, so out come the red cords.

p.p.p.s. anyone know who still makes brown leather and tan suede saddle shoes? i want some. what ever happend to "Walkover"?


Toad said...

what size saddles?

Anonymous said...

When do we get Mrs. G's carrot cake recipe?

initials CG said...


You are not far gone(...or gone far.

This is the way to eat. It's a struggle, and it should be the treat you so well described. Hoarding the wine, the specialty stores and knowing the ins and outs of the distribution system. Top it off with sharing and especially enjoying this odyssey with your family is evryones dream.

BTW, I know Italian noble families, (nothing to get too excited about) and they go about things exactly like you do. I mean "exactly". When I am invited to dinner, not only do I have to bring something truly unique (lately, it's a particular fruity extra virgin olive made by this 93 year old widower I know) , but I have to invent some story about how it was so difficult to obtain. Well, I stick to the truth. He only has three lousy trees, and the look awful, but they make some of the most incredible olives. The trees were planted by his grandfather! He always saves me a few bottles which I am so grateful.

This was a great post, which I think, touches a deep human nerve. At least in some of us....

It's these

Giuseppe said...

Toad- 9.5 or 10, depending on he shoes. Why do you ask?

Anon.- the dirty secret is that the recipe came from "joy of cooking", but Mrs. G is a great baker, and she nails this one everytime.

CG- trust the I talian guy to love the story about the gastronomic delights.

George Erdosh said...

If I wanted to splurge, kitchen tools would be on top of my list. I love to cook, too and with excellent tools the job is easy and a pleasure. In fact I devoted a whole chapter to this subject, Kitchen Tools to Keep, Kitchen Tools to Trash, in my recently published book (Nov/08):

“Tried and True Recipes from a Caterer’s Kitchen—Secrets of Making Great Foods”


Anonymous said...

Is this it?

Carrot Cake

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups peeled and finely grated carrots
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoons freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Have all ingredients at room temperature, 68°F to 70°F.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

3. Grease and flour two 9x2-inch round pans or two 8x8-inch pans or one 13x9-inch pan, or line the bottom with wax paper.

4. In a large bowl, throroughly whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, all-spice, and salt.

5. Add the vegetable oil and eggs, and stir together well with a rubber spatula or beat on low speed.

6. Stir in the carrots and walnuts.

7. Scrape the batter into the pans(s) and spread evenly.

8. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Source: The New Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer

Anonymous said...

Yes that is the recipe. Match it with the food processor cream cheese frosting from the same book. Delightful! :)
Mrs. G

Turling said...

I am reading this while waiting for my wife to finish her shower and other preparations before we leave for my company's Christmas party. I'm afraid your post has rather depressed me, as the food I am about to eat in three hours time will not come close to be as tasty as that as you have described. However, there is hope. Two words. Say them with me. Open bar.

Giuseppe said...


two more words: whiskey highball.

tintin said...

I'm a big fan of the cast iron. I just got back from a weekend in Wilminton, DE and brought a load of red meat home from a butcher called Hermans in Newark, DE. They dry age their own beef although this economy put an end to that about 6 months ago. Still, they cut my steaks 2" thick and the taste is what I remember from the 70s when we had them every Sunday night.

I'm on the lookout for that wine.

Giuseppe said...

Tin Tin,

"Still, they cut my steaks 2" thick and the taste is what I remember from the 70s when we had them every Sunday night. "

You mean back in the old days when things were still real and generally accesible to the average American?

As for that wine, good luck. It was imported by a Massachusetts distribution company. Given my years in the business, knowledge of the import company, and general vibe at the store where I bought it, I suspect some under-the-table trunk-of-the-car dealing to be involved here.

But what do I care? For $15.99 I'll drink all the chateau level 2000 Bordeaux there is.

Anonymous said...

Time to start an affordable cooking Blog?

This is how our parents taught us to eat. By going to traditional butcher shops and farmers markets I feed my family of 3 for 81.00 per week. That includes Lunch and Dinner. The key is to eat no processed food and cook from scratch.

Now that we dress better let's start eating like gentlemen.

Anonymous said...

I agree An Affordable Wardrobe has given us the foundation to live as "old world" men. They are dressed neatly never ate tons of junk food, good with money, thrifty and honorable.

I remember my father's vegtable garden and his special chair where he would read the newspaper cover to cover everynight and I could go to him with all of my problems for discussion.