Ring In The Holidays

I honestly thought it was a promise ring.  It wasn’t my fault though, the man gave me absolutely no direction.

I’d only known Petey three years, but I already knew he was the hedgiest of bet hedgers.  He avoids straight answers and declarative statements the way other people avoid bathing suit shopping and taking the last doughnut at work.

It was Christmastime, and we’d been dating almost a year.  We enjoyed each other’s company, understood each other, and were absolutely okay with that knowledge.

We hung out together almost always when we weren’t at work or school.  We ate a lot of Pizza Inn, Sonic, and walked around the tiny mall often.

There was a Belk’s on one end, a Roses on the other end, and twelve or fifteen smaller shops, including a Jewel Box.  As we glanced in the window and I saw a diamond ring, and said, “Buy me that!” It was a joke, like saying buy me a sparkly pink pony, or asking for a ride to work on the space shuttle.  We kept walking, and never mentioned it again.

These are actual 80s ski togs. You could be buried 100 feet in an avalanche and they’d still see you…

We’d begun thinking that for Christmas, we might go up to the mountains for some skiing. I’d bought him a ski parka for Christmas and had already given it to him.  As we were leaving my folks, he asked if I wanted mine. 

The three-year-old inside me was screaming and jumping up and down all over the place.  I calmly answered, “Sure if you want to give it to me now.”

And there, in my mom’s garage he put his hand in the pocket of his new jacket, pulled out a ring box and handed it to me—without opening it.  But his grin was huge and the sparkle in his eye could have lit the whole place.

I opened it.

It was that ring from the jewelry store at the mall. I was as flabbergasted as a possum presented with a spork.  Not only could I not speak, I also had no idea what the ring was for.  I’d had no inkling that marrying me had even entered his thoughts.

I couldn’t make my mind believe that it was an engagement ring, so without the power of speech to ask, and with nothing forthcoming from Petey, all I could come up with was a promise ring.

For the young and/or uninitiated, a promise ring represents the intention to become engaged sometime in the future of the future.  It was normally a tiny diamond chip surrounded by a collar of sparkly metal to fool the eye.

The ring didn’t fit, so we headed to the mall for it to be sized.

At the mall, we ran into a girl from school who worked at Belk Tyler’s.  I showed her the ring.  She was the one to finally ask the half carat solitaire, four-pronged question.

“What’s it for?”

Good question, Mary!  I looked at Petey.

His infuriating, enigmatic, response? “It’s for whatever she wants it to be for.”  Honestly, it was like I was going steady with the Oracle at Delphi!

I finally lost my patience.  We left Belk’s and walked over to the fountain in the center of the mall.  I sat down and said, “Look, I have a few ideas, but I want you to tell me what this ring is for right now!”


Still standing, Petey held the ring out to me, and said, “Debbie Ross, will you marry me?”

And we lived happily (mostly) ever after.

Thanks for your time, and from silent Petey, The Kid, and me, have the very happiest of holidays and an uninteresting but joyful 2021.

Contact me at d@bullcity.mom.

Thoughts While Watching TV On A Sunday Afternoon

Before I begin, there’s something you have to know, Gentle Reader, about my ever-loving spouse.

Petey watches television, especially movies, like no one I’ve ever met before.  Except for sporting events, he doesn’t schedule any viewing.  For my spouse, the only “Must See TV” is Duke versus anybody and all football. Lately though, because of pandemic-related issues, the pickings have been tragically slim. But he loves to watch it and has an uncanny ability to find televised contests.

This is some type of competitive…something.

Recently, I have walked in on him watching sheepdog trials from the Outer Hebrides, Mongolian wrestling, and flaming puck unicycle hockey from Saskatoon.  If there are scores recorded and folks yelling at the participants, he’s in.

I get the sports, though.  I have yelled at the screen during more than one episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and you don’t want to be in the same zip code with me when I’m watching Britain’s Best Baker (OMG, Paul Hollywood’s eyes!).

But it’s Petey’s viewing habits of non-sporting television that still puzzle me after almost forty years of marriage.

The man is constitutionally unable to watch a movie on TV all the way through.  We’ll be sitting on the couch together, watching a movie, it’ll go to a commercial, and ZAP! He changes the channel.  The new show will be on for a bit, long enough for me to get interested.  I’ll wonder, “What’s the deal with the shoes?” or “Who is the guy with the rusty soup ladle?”

And ZAP!

It normally takes 17-39 showings of a movie before I’ve seen the whole thing, and even then, it’s like watching a film made by a director who just heard about the concept of flashbacks and can’t stop using them.  It’s jigsaw-vision.

When I joined Petey on the sofa today he was watching an X-Men movie—but of course, not for long.  So, I thought I’d share with you the things running through my head during this entertainment tsunami.

This is the guy from the movie–Juggernaught. And what the heck with the name?

That mutant bad guy is wearing some sort of leather harness and what looks like a foam helmet.  How do these guys decide to wear this kind of thing?  And every single day?  Don’t they ever wake up and think, “It’s a snuggly sweater and boots day.”?  Or “I feel like a nice, bright Hawaiian shirt.”?

 And where do they procure these ridiculous getups? Do they make them themselves?  I can’t quite picture this dude squinting, trying to thread a needle… Do they have a guy?  Evil Mutant Uniforms Я Us?


Alright…Wait, what?  Are they doing an interpretive dance in church? 


OMG, I know he loves sports, but please don’t tell me this man is going to seriously watch a high school basketball game from 1978?  Is he really that desperate?  Good grief those shorts are short.  They look like they’re playing in bikini bottoms.


 Oh look!  Ooh…It’s Robin Williams, I wonder what this is?   OMG!!!  Noooo!  It’s Hook!!!  Change it, for the love of all that’s holy, change it…



It’s…a musical.  Rock of Ages?  So, musicals.  What is the actual deal? How is it supposed to work?  Somebody just bursts into song, and suddenly there are all these random passersby in coordinating outfits, dancing a choreographed number?  Is it all in the singer’s head?  Does that mean every musical is a look at someone’s descent into madness?  Oh, I forgot Tom Cruise is in this.  What misguided casting director ever thought this was a good call?

“Thanks, Petey, but are you sure you don’t want the remote?  Ok, I guess I could find something to watch…”

Hello boys.

Thanks for your time.

Contact me at d@bullcity.mom

The Best Worst Man

The Kid has already married four people.

No, my child isn’t on a matrimonial race to beat Zsa Zsa Gabor and her nine marriages.  A few years ago, The Kid got ordained to perform weddings for some close friends.  Yesterday was wedding number two.

Because of social distancing, the wedding was held online.  Petey and I offered to help out with a trial run, to make sure the sound and lighting were okay.  Once the soundcheck was completed, we stayed on our video chat and well, chatted—about weddings.

Our poor child has heard enough about our own nuptials that it could probably be recited like the Gettysburg address, Mark Antony’s speech in Julius Ceasar, or the list of actors who portrayed the Doctor, in chronological order.  So we talked about weddings we’d attended.

Or more accurately, weddings in which Petey has served as best man.

It’s only been two,  but they both went so badly that it was enough to seal his reputation as the very worst of wedlock curses.  After the second marriage made the Titanic look like the Good Ship Lollypop, word got around.

Thirty-eight years have passed since he’s been asked to stand up for a groom.

The first time Petey was the “best man”, his friend, Shelby was the groom in question.  The night before the nuptials, a post-rehearsal dinner/drink-a-thon was held.  Petey had a shift as an orderly, so he couldn’t make it.  The bridegroom’s little brother, who was about fourteen or fifteen, was in attendance.

Petey’s absence was probably for the best.

The next day they were all there, standing at the altar, waiting for the blushing bride.  Shelby’s kid brother, one of the groomsmen, was standing next to Petey.  The teenager smelled so strongly of alcohol, Petey almost got a contact drunk.  Suddenly, the kid stiffened, and his eyes lost their focus. 

Shelby’s brother passed slam out.  He dropped onto the church’s carpet as suddenly and completely as if he were a tree that had been chopped down.

He was fine, just doing what most drunken teenagers tend to do—sleeping it off.

The second wedding that Petey served as best man, was for our friend, Wayne, or as everyone in Elizabeth City knew him, Pig. 

Pig was marrying a girl in my class.  It was a rebound relationship for Pig, and a bid for independence for Linda, his betrothed.  Chrissy Teigen and Pat Roberts would have been a more compatible match.  Heck, the Queen of England and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would have been better marriage prospects.

Petey was driving Pig to the wedding.  To this day he doesn’t know whether it was an accident, or a bid to rescue his friend, but instead of pulling into the church parking lot, he kept driving, toward the Outer Banks and freedom.  The guests in the lot were a sea of wide eyes and open mouths as the boys drove right past.

Unfortunately, the groom looked up and alerted Petey that they were off-course.  The wedding took place as planned.

Shelby’s marriage eventually ended when the bride realized that it was putting a real crimp in her very active dating life.

Pig and Linda realized just what a horrible idea their marriage was the first morning they woke up as man and wife.  They limped along for a year or so before they finally put their wedded bliss out of its misery.

I think it’s possible The Kid doesn’t carry the wedding curse gene.  Both marriages, the two-year-old one and the one my child performed yesterday are still rock solid.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Hard Wisdom

After continued flirtations with death, multiple surgeries, and lengthy hospital stays, there came a point when Petey was stable and recovered enough to come home for good.

And the life which we’d known before his illness was gone forever.

The months-long fight to stay alive had taken a toll.  His strength was such that returning to nursing, or any type of work was now impossible—the simple effort of bathing and dressing exhausts him like twelve hours of nursing used to.

Petey had to come to terms with the fact that his life had become something he didn’t recognize, and never wanted.  He was forced to deal with the anger and shame of being “the invalid”.  He was a carer that now needed someone to care for him.

It wasn’t an easy transition, not for any member of the Matthews Family Band.

The Kid existed in a constant state of terror.  But my stoic child presented to the world both a face and demeanor carved from stone because loss of control meant a volcano of embarrassing and unwanted emotion would crash down in a never-ending pyroclastic flow of feelings.

I coped by indulging in a form of optimism so extreme as to almost be magical thinking; rejecting facts and the situation at hand and substituting a belief that absolutely everything would be fixed by the coming treatment/surgery/medicine/doctor, and our former lives would be restored to us.

When things were too precarious for even my almost hysterical optimism, I would go to my fallback position; numbness. 

When no one with an MD could offer any hope, and returning to that empty house every day made me think I’d die from fear, stress, and loneliness, I’d shut down. 

I’d do and say the appropriate things, but for days at a time, nothing penetrated and I sleepwalked through life. 

It was while living within this continuous crisis that friends and family stepped up or let us down.

My parents?  They burned up the highway between Greensboro and Duke.  They visited almost every day and came in with Starbucks, took us out of the hospital for meals, never left without slipping cash into our pockets, and always presented a stout shoulder and unwavering encouragement.

Other relatives treated Petey’s illness as a personal affront.  They demanded we manage and massage their feelings about the situation.  They offered nothing positive and always had a carefully curated reason why they once again were unable to make a visit to the hospital.

We had friends that carried us away for a respite from HospitalWorld.  They would tease, cajole, and fill us with what, during that dark time, passed for happiness.

And we had people with lots of thoughts and prayers, but very little else.  One neighbor asked me daily if I needed anything.  I hesitated, but finally weeks into our hellish ordeal I asked him to clean up a few piles from our dog because I was never home during daylight hours so was unable to.  He declined.

But the very next day he asked again if he could do anything to help me out. 

Thanks but no thanks.    

Our lives aren’t the lives we inhabited before the illness.  This is our normal now and we’ve had to accept that.  Is it the life we would have chosen for ourselves?


Not a chance.

But Petey’s still home and is currently sitting on the couch next to me.  And though we have tough patches, every day I hear his laugh that sounds like warm caramel and see the same twinkle of  mischief in his eyes that I fell in love with thirty-eight years ago.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Hard-Won Wisdom

It’s been almost six years now, since Petey came home from the hospital the last time.

For months, his back and legs had been in terrible pain that every day, got worse.  He was regularly seeing an orthopedic doctor and had had a medical text’s worth of treatments.

Nothing helped, and the pain grew worse.

The pain eventually got so bad it was becoming almost impossible to work.  Finally one day, he left the unit he’d worked in for more than twenty-five years in a wheelchair.  That shift was the last time he ever worked as a nurse.

Two months later we noticed his feet were the color of a new bruise.  He had an appointment to see our family doctor for another matter and I asked him about Petey’s feet.  He took one look and ordered us to the emergency room—he’d call and let them know we were on our way.

It turned out, the artery that supplied the blood below his waist was so blocked, it was practically non-functional. 

He needed a synthetic replacement artery.  But he might still lose his feet which had an unknowable amount of damage because for months had gone without anything close to an adequate blood supply.  The surgery, which was supposed to take three hours, took seven.  Afterward, he spent days in intensive care, on a respirator. 

The good news—his feet were okay.

The bad news—his kidneys had shut down.

This began a nightmare of dialysis, further complications and more surgeries.  He’d get stable enough to come home, only to be rushed to the E.R. in a few days for more surgery and another extended hospitalization. 

Dialysis took a heavy toll on him.  He had it twice a week, usually as an inpatient but occasionally he was at home and would visit a dialysis center.  Each session lasted four or five hours, and battered him physically and mentally.  By the time he regained a portion of strength, it was time for more dialysis.

The treatments kept him alive, but as each week passed he grew weaker and less able to bounce back.  The doctors frequently reminded us that kidney disease went in only one direction—downhill.  It was entirely likely he’d eventually need a transplant.

Petey’s world shrank to the few feet around his hospital bed.  His days spent in anxiety, pain, and uncertainty.  Our lives lurched between worry and the boredom of the sick-room, with brief flashes of abject terror. 

In less than a year Petey had gone from cheerful, active nurse, husband and father to a patient.  To many of his doctors and a few of his nurses, he became a “case”; his humanity replaced by symptoms, treatments and prognoses.

My days were spent at his bedside, acting as companion and advocate.  Petey was too sick and demoralized to take a stand, so I was the one whose foot was regularly put down with doctors and hospital staff on matters ranging from timely test results and procedures to diet and discharge.

At night I returned home to walk the dog, eat, shower, do some laundry, and go to bed.   Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Finally, in March, he was well enough to come home for good and defying kidney soothsayers, went off dialysis.  But in 160 days, he’d spent almost 120 confined to the hospital.

It’s been just about six years since the illness, and I have thoughts.  Next week I’ll share them with you, Gentle Reader, and also tell you what a good friend looks like to the person going through a catastrophic illness and the person who’s taking care of them.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Rock of Ages

It appeared that some awful tragic event had taken place; an earthquake maybe, or victims spilling out of an airplane, and tumbling from the sky.

A man, woman, and toddler were immobile on the pavement, the landing spot of poor decisions and alcohol.

It was early May.  Petey and I had been dating since January.  We didn’t have a date that night because we were taking Mom out for her birthday. 

On the way, I happened to glance out the window at the surreal sight of Petey and our friend Pig, standing in the parking lot of the bank, which was closed.

They were pacing around Petey’s beloved Corolla, which was sitting at a 45-degree angle resting upon a large landscaping rock as if taking a short break from the business of ferrying Petey around Elizabeth City.

I think my whole family had taken in the bizarre vignette at the same time.  By the time I yelped, “Dad!”, he was already maneuvering the car into a u-turn.

As soon as we turned into the bank and the car slowed, I jumped out and ran.

Right up to two drunken, befuddled miscreants.  I was embarrassed, disappointed, and frustrated by the poor judgment of Petey and the Pig, and resulting havoc.

But I also knew I had to put that on hold, because when not being a drunken fool, Petey was studying to be a registered nurse, and would graduate in a few weeks.  The bank was in one of the most visible spots on the most traveled road in town.  It was only a matter of time before someone made a phone call and a man with a badge showed up.

This dumb mistake could very well ruin Petey’s career before it even started.

Even my parents agreed we needed to get Petey out of this pickle, then after the crisis, have a discussion.

Not the actual incident, but I guess Petey’s not alone.

The car was resting on its undercarriage, so backing down was not an option.  It needed to be lifted up and off.  And the Corolla’s jack wouldn’t go high enough.

We were gonna need another jack.

At that time, my dad volunteered as an EMT and a first aid trainer.  He worked on ambulances and taught CPR and basic lifesaving techniques.  He had a class to teach the next day and his materials were already packed in the trunk.

To get to the jack, the classroom aids needed to be taken out. 

All three of them.

The entire family.

Imagine this troupe spread all over a parking lot…

The man, woman, and toddler dummies used to teach cardiac and pulmonary resuscitation.  

They were removed from the trunk and placed upon the pavement. 

All three of them.

The entire family.

Creating what looked like the scene of a massacre.

Somehow they succeeded in separating car from rock.  Moments after pulling the car into a regulation spot and replacing dummies into the trunk, a police car slowly drove past the now unremarkable scene of two cars and their non-law breaking occupants.

Dinner was forgotten as Dad drove Petey and Pig home in Petey’s Toyota and Mom followed with me and my little brother in our car.  We then went home, leaving Petey at his house to think about what was undoubtedly a blistering lecture from my dad.

The humiliating experience and “Dad talk” worked.  Petey stopped drinking and became a nurse that co-workers and patients all agreed was remarkably level-headed, knowledgable, and nurturing. 

But every once in a while, sitting around the table after dinner, while Petey sits with the most sheepish of expressions, the rest of the family will be nearly hysterical remembering “That Rock at the First Union Parking Lot.”

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom

Adventures In Babysitting

I can tell you the exact moment it happened.  

It was on a visit we’d made to Elizabeth City.  At the time, our friend Pig’s son was about four-years-old, which as everyone knows is the most adorable and charming age for the human species.  I’d spent some time with him, and we’d enjoyed each other’s company.

On the way home, we stopped at Pig’s.  We entered through the kitchen, and then it happened.

My little buddy did something that sealed my fate.  He reached out for me with both hands and smiled this sunny, heartbreaking grin.  And…the snooze alarm on my biological clock began clanging like all the bells on the planet were playing a wake-up call just for me.

Within eighteen months, we were greeting The Kid in the maternity ward.

But, here’s the weird part.  Until the incident in Pig’s kitchen, I didn’t want to have children.  Heck, at eighteen I was begging my OB/GYN to fix me like a wayward Doberman (of course, there isn’t a doctor around that’ll sterilize an eighteen-year-old kid, which in my case was a good thing).

And that brings me to babysitting.

In the summers of junior high, I watched my brother while Mom worked.  But, he was a bookworm like me, so mainly I just had to make sure he didn’t get a paper cut or burn down the house. 

When I was in high school I did a little babysitting.  Honestly, though, I was a pretty indifferent sitter.  If I’d been in the Babysitters’ Club, I would have been “Debbie, the pretty reliable yet entirely unenthusiastic babysitter”.

Petey had two younger brothers.  He also had an older sister Deb, who’s favorite thing ever is to run things, so he only got minimal experience.

There’s something you should know about my spouse.  He has a few interests like watching any and all sports contests, learning to play the guitar (which has been an ongoing project since I met him in 1979), and dogs.     

But for his entire life, he’s had one interest so central to who he is, that it’s less hobby, and more raison d’etre, and pillar of his personality.  If he had to choose between me and this abiding passion, I wouldn’t stand a chance.

The man loves a nap.  I mean, he LOVES them.  Like really, really loves them.  Petey never met a horizontal surface he didn’t want to get to know better.

So, one day, when his family was stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas, he was babysitting a neighbor’s children.  The homes were built of stone, literally about the time of General Custer.  Petey was napping on the living room couch.  Downstairs, in the basement, his charges were climbing around on a couple of ancient metal bed frames.

He woke up when one of the kids tugged on his arm and opened his eyes to a lot of blood coming from an scary-looking gash on the little boy’s noggin. 

Head wounds bleed impressively, so it turned out to not be serious.  Petey’s not sure how the parents reacted because when he called home, his sister rushed over and was ecstatic to take over and kick him out.  The parents didn’t give him a hard time over the injury to their child, because they didn’t hire him to sit for them again, and actually never spoke to him after that.

That’s me and The Kid.

Despite our experience in childcare, we took care of our offspring pretty well.  Petey did great, and I only dropped our baby on the head twice, and the one time I misplaced our child, Dom Deluise (yup, that Dom Deluise) returned The Kid to me.

Thanks for your time.Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Salad Bar Days

I recently found three really old recipes during the excavation of a very large junk drawer full of mountains of stuff I hadn’t seen in years.

The recipes were tucked in amongst a sky-high stack of old photos.  These pictures were all taken with old-school cameras.  And the dates of them range from junior high to the engagement photos of Petey and me, taken by my favorite photographer, Kat, one of my oldest friends.

Each photo tells a story, so what follows is the picture, and far fewer than 1000 words.

This snapshot was taken in the spring of 1979.  Each year, the 9th grade, third year Spanish class went to Mexico for ten days.  This photo was our visit to Teotihuacán, a village of temples and buildings so old that the origins of the place were already lost to time when the Aztecs met the Spaniards.

This is the great pyramid of the sun.  The plan was for my classmates and I to walk to the top.  Two-thirds of the way up is a plateau where the staircase splits into two.  This is also where an enterprising young man had set up a jewelry kiosk.  While the rest of the kids continued on, I halted my climb.

To shop.

This is Pig.  He was Petey’s best friend, and in a town (Elizabeth City) chock-a-block full of eccentrics, he was in a not-quite-right class by himself.  He’s big-hearted, good natured, and a magnet for mischief.  I always said that as he was being led off to the electric chair, he’d be shaking his head, saying, “I don’t understand, I just went for a beer run, then I met the red-headed Swede with a limp!”

I can happily tell you that he actually became a very successful builder, and has largely lived a life that didn’t include any intervention from North Carolina’s criminal system.

This is Petey and I at the Rod Stewart show in Norfolk, VA in February of 1982 (my first rock concert).  It was really cold.  Pig, who was with us that night, gallantly offered me the use of his vest, which felt warm but oddly heavy.

As we walked in, a security guard reached for me in what I considered an overly familiar manner.  So, in a move that would make Carolina Panther Christian McCaffrey proud, I pivoted and side-stepped away from what I thought was a lecherous grab.  The crowd was thick and eager to see the show, so the guard let me go.

The McCaffrey in question.

It’s a good thing he did.  Once inside, Pig took his back vest and it was then I realized why it was so heavy.  He had filled it with enough liquor to open a large bar, and a very large plastic bag full of a green, leafy substance.  There was so much contraband in that jacket that if I had been patted down, the words you are reading today, nearly forty years later, would be a missive from the Richmond jail.

This is our enegagement photo.  Looking at this, I can’t believe we were ever this impossibly young.  It’s shocking that we were deemed mature enough to make such a huge, life-altering decision.  I was not nearly as smug as I looked.  But, I’m pretty sure Petey was even more terrified than he appeared.

My guess is he was asking himself the question that he he still asks on a regular basis. “What in Sam Hill have I gotten myself into?”.

Let me know if you enjoyed this glimpse into my demented photo album, because if so, I’ll make further deep dives into my past for your amusement.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Sweden, By The Numbers

opening lineHere’s my opening line.

When I write a column, I have a topic.  Today’s topic is the Swedish meatballs at Ikea, and the copycat recipe I have.  Then the column begins to write itself in my head—which this one has, but in an uncharacteristically fragmented way.  The last thing that happens is that I come up with the opening line; often in the shower, or while walking the dog.

Today I both showered and walked the dog almost four miles and came up with bupkis.back pocketWhen this has happened in the past, and I’ve fretted about it to Petey, he’s suggested the opening line seen above.  I always laugh, thank him, and tell him I’ll keep it in my back pocket (Care & Feeding of Husbands-Chapter 1.).

And then come up with an actual opener that I use.

But not tonight; so Petey to the rescue.laplandI do though, have some crazy weather facts about the Lapland region of Sweden that I discovered while doing research for this piece.

Kiruna is in Lapland and the northernmost city in Sweden.  It lies ninety miles north of the Arctic Circle.  The warmest temp ever recorded was 88.9 (F) degrees, in July 1945.  The coldest was -45.9 (F) in January 1999.  The sun does not set for the fifty days between May 28th and July 16th and doesn’t rise from December 11th to January 1st (22 days).  Yikes.

Now, for the meatballs.meatballsFurniture Store Swedish Meatballs

1 cup homemade white bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 white onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

kosher salt, or to tastesw chef¼ teaspoons freshly ground pepper

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¾ pound ground veal or turkey

½ pound ground pork

1 large egg, plus 1 egg white, beaten

vegetable oil, for baking sheet

queen kristina

Queen Kristina of Sweden

2 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 ½ cup beef stock

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup heavy cream

kosher salt to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For service:garnished meatballs2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Lingonberry or tart mixed-berry jam

To make meatballs: Put bread crumbs in a large bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add milk and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Pour milk mixture over bread crumbs and stir to make a thick paste (called panade); let cool. Add ground veal or turkey, ground pork, egg and egg white to the bowl and mix until combined. Brush baking sheet with vegetable oil. Scoop meat with small portion scoop, then roll into 1-inch balls and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

swedish royal family

Not Ikea models.  This is the Swedish royal family–honest.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bake meatballs for about 20 minutes or until cooked through.

To make gravy: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking, until smooth. Whisk in beef broth, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and bring to simmer. Add heavy cream and meatballs. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until gravy thickens about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with the parsley.  Serves six.meatballs w aspaServe with a simple starch like egg noodles or mashed potatoes and a dollop of jam.  You can also serve on toasted and buttered bread like a split baguette or Texas toast.

Because of the very rich nature of this dish, green vegetables as a side and post-prandial walk are highly recommended by me, your doctor, your arteries, and your Levi’s.swedish fansThanks for your time.

Hang Out with a Fun Guy (fungi, get it?)

costcoAlthough I have a deep and abiding love for it, I have a complicated relationship with Costco.

It took many years before I could walk into my local warehouse and walk out with only what I need, and not a 50-gallon drum of marinated artichoke hearts and a pallet of golf balls (I don’t even golf).  But still, each time I visit I discover something I’ve never even known existed, but also know in my very marrow, that I can’t continue life on this planet without it.costco coolerI often venture into that house-sized refrigerator where the keep their veggies and come out bearing a giant amount of this or that.  Frequently, it’s their button mushrooms, that come in like a forty- or fifty-pound box.

And when I get them home, I look at them with the same confusion and trepidation with which Petey and I gazed at the newly born Kid.newbornWhat do we do with it now?

Last week, I decided to do a creamy mushroom bake.  I love all three of those words; each one implies something tasty, and used together, connote comfort food heaven.

There were two big stars in this dish.  One’s a tub of Brie.  I love brie but rarely have it around the house because I’m scared I’ll go into a cheese fugue state and run dairy amuck.  It’s the same thing with still-warm Krispy Kreme doughnuts—I just don’t trust myself around them.  I’ve never eaten more than three in one sitting but am pretty sure I could polish off 18 or 20 without batting an eye.kristiesThe other new, but really important ingredient was mushroom stock.  I always discard the stems when I use mushrooms, but this time I tossed them into a pot with 2 cups of chicken stock, a handful of dried mushrooms, and a couple bay leaves.  I then boiled it until it reduced by half, then strained it.

Creamy Brie Mushroom Bakecreamy mushrrom bake½ cup + 3 tablespoons butter, divided

2 pounds sliced button mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed and saved for stock

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 tablespoons dried thyme

¼ teaspoon dried rosemary

½ cup white wine

½ cup flour

1 cup mushroom stock

2 cups 2% milk

½ cup heavy cream

1 5-ounce container spreadable Président Creamy Brie

1 16-ounce box corkscrew pasta, cooked for 5 minutes only

½ cup shredded manchego

Salt & pepper to tasteshroomsMelt 3 tablespoons of butter in large, heavy pot.  Add mushrooms, onion, thyme and rosemary.  Season, then stir to coat.  Turn to medium, cover and cook until the water’s released from veg.  Uncover and cook until the liquid’s cooked out, and mushrooms start to brown.  Pour in wine and cook until dry.  Remove veg and set aside.

Melt rest of the butter and stir in flour.  Cook 2 minutes then add stock, milk and cream.  Stir continuously until it boils.  Take off heat and stir in brie until melted.mushroom saucePreheat oven to 350.  Add vegetables and noodles to pot.  Stir until everything’s coated and veg are evenly distributed.  Taste for seasoning and re-season, if necessary.  Pour into greased casserole dish.  Cover with parchment, then foil.

Bake covered casserole for 45 minutes, uncover, top with shredded cheese, and bake, uncovered for 30 minutes.  Let sit 15 minutes before service.  Serves 8.

The dish was a hit, but it almost got Petey a punch in the nose.The Brady Bunch Vintage Tv GIF by absurdnoiseWhen I told him what we were having for dinner, he asked, “Isn’t this mushroom stuff just like something you’ve made before?”

No, Petey.  It has mushroom stock and brie—it’s totally different.


Thanks for your time.