Cumberland Times-News

Columns

February 23, 2013

No more ice cream? Perish the thought

People sometimes ask what I consider to be my favorite food. My answer is usually, “Probably whatever I’m eating at the time.”

The variety of food types available to humankind is like the variety of stars in the sky: Each is unique, and each has its own purpose in Creation.

I just finished a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. PB&J ranks among the most perfect of foods — it combines both the main course and dessert in each bite.

One of our former reporters saw I was eating a PB&J and asked me, “How did you make that?”

With a toaster and a knife, I replied.

If I had to choose just one form of food to eat for the rest of my life, what would I pick?

Were I to go with seafood, that would eliminate the possibility of a ribeye steak, a bacon cheeseburger or a chili dog and french fries with beef gravy, and there would be no more pepperoni pizza.

Go the rest of my life without ever seeing another pancake smothered in sausage gravy and scrambled eggs? The thought is too horrible to contemplate.

And ... there ... would ... be ... no ... more ... ice ... cream.

Bacon may be the most irresistible food of all. I have heard on several occasions that bacon has led to the undoing of more vegetarians than anything else.

A friend who owns a restaurant gave me 10 pounds of pre-sliced slab bacon for Christmas two years ago. I thanked her with all of the sincerity I could manage, then took it home and lovingly divided it into 12 individually-wrapped portions (one for each month of the year) that I put in the freezer.

She did not give me the same thing last Christmas, probably because I told her that a couple of months earlier. the doctor took one look at my weight, blood pressure and blood tests and told me I should give serious thought to taking off a number of pounds.

I have done so, and after going from 240 to 220, I actually can look down without leaning forward and see my belt buckle.

It wasn’t that difficult. I’d done it before — at my doctor’s urging — and knew it was possible. Eat less and exercise more, and you don’t really have to give up anything ... just eat certain things less often. I don’t go across the street at lunch to get a pizza one day a week.

Dinner, most nights, consists of some fruit and vegetables. My father spoiled me years ago with his home-grown tomatoes, so I usually don’t bother buying them in the market.

However, there are some cherry-size tomatoes that taste almost as good as Dad’s, and I eat half a dozen or so of them at a time, along with some broccoli and carrots and a banana and maybe some grapes.

 None of the thousands of steaks I’ve eaten really sticks out in my memory, but in my mind’s eye ... mind’s mouth, really ... I can think of great chili dogs and actually remember what they tasted like.

I have at least once devoted an entire column to chili dogs. Mine must have chopped raw onions on them, and maybe some good brown mustard.

Like chili itself, chili sauce must NOT be too sweet. Some people actually put sugar in their chili and chili sauce, and sugar has NO place in either one.

Although some are better than others, a burger is basically a burger, as long as the meat is good and it’s cooked properly. The toppings are what make a burger.

However, chili dogs are like women, dogs and, I suppose, men and cats: No two are the same, and each offers its own unique appeal (or reason to avoid them).

I just took a moment to reminisce about some of my favorite chili dogs and how they tasted.

It may be that my first-ever chili dog came from Custard’s Last Stand at the corner of Fort Avenue and Mineral Street in Keyser.

Chili dogs and milkshakes were the Goldsworthy family dinner one night a week, and some of my contemporaries and I now and then talk about how we still miss the place.

We also talk about the chili dogs we ate at Springer’s in Westernport after having played basketball for a few hours on Saturday afternoons in the gym at Piedmont High School, where one of our friends was junior high coach.

Springer’s also had pinball machines, and I remember the day Mr. Springer apologized to us because an increase in the price of buns had forced him to raise the price of a chili dog from 20 cents to 25 cents.

We didn’t have the heart to tell them they already cost 30 cents or more at other places. We told him it didn’t matter, because we loved him and his hot dogs ... and we did.

After I wrote about Springer’s a number of years ago, a friend of mine in the Sheriff’s Department told me he was related to the family and had the recipe. He gave me a supply of the sauce, and it was just as good as I remembered.

Having written this much, I recessed to go home and rest for a while before going to my church, where we were to have the first of our Lenten covered-dish dinners.

Lutherans know how to cook, and I had no idea what to look forward to, but I knew it would make us happy. Among other things, there was sauerkraut and hot dogs — something else a seafood diet would deny me.

And, as I was hoping, some friends brought in the best rhubarb dessert I’ve ever eaten. Me eating rhubarb? My mother would never have dreamed it possible.

Pastor Sally thanked the Lord, for the bounty, then blessed it and those who prepared it and those who were about to receive it.

Then came the best part: We shared it with friends.

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