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  1. The End of the Yum Yum

    April 18, 2014 by The Yum Yum

    April has been a month of extreme changes.

    The biggest and most important change that I’ve encountered is that Christopher and I just got married.

    We visited Annapolis, Maryland, a state that has marriage equality, and we married at 9:25 AM EST on Wednesday, April 16, 2014.

    We actually arrived in Annapolis on Monday and went to the courthouse to apply for our license. There’s a 48-hour waiting period, however.

    We also visited several delicious restaurants during the course of the week.

    That being said, I am done.

    I am done with many things, but first and foremost, I am done with the South.

    For the past decade or so, I have made excuses for the South, tried to defend the South, tried to make peace with the fact that I’m from the South, and even written a blog dealing with being from the South.

    But traveling to Annapolis, Maryland, a city situated in the heart of the origin of the USA and the founding fathers, and seeing the people there, how kind they were, how charming they were, how open they were, how everyone was civil and good, I have had a rather rude awakening about the USA and the South.

    Southerners unfortunately have largely spoken a continuous narrative to themselves about how they have such great manners and are so polite as opposed to those “rude Northerners.”

    Let me tell you that the people in Annapolis- every last blessed man or woman with whom we interacted- was more polite, and consistently so, than ANYONE I have ever interacted with in the South.

    I am proud to be an American, but I’m proud to be a REAL American, a tolerant, giving, progressive American who sees the best in people and is kind back to those who are kind ot me. I see myself as a citizen of a global community and not some podunk town in Alabama.

    So, I’m DONE. I tried to see the “good” side of the South, I tried to find redeeming qualities, but no, MOST OF THE PEOPLE ARE BACKWARDS BIGOTS.

    Yes, there are good people in the South. I have made many, many friends with many, many people living in Alabama and Florida.

    They are not the mainstream or the norm.

    So, no, I will not defend backwards bigots who label all Muslims as terrorists because they’re projecting their own shadow of religious stupidity onto an entire other religion’s practitioners, nor will I defend people who think black people and Mexicans are inherently more likely to commit crimes, nor will I defend people who think it’s okay to vote for laws that ban marriage equality because some awkward verse in their awkwardly interpreted, culturally and linguistically decontextualized religious text tells them so.

    The flight to Annapolis along with the ghost tour the first night along with the fact that Chris and I were able to get married in a perfunctory way and nobody asked questions or thought us abnormal or inhuman along with the general atmosphere of the town opened my eyes to the fact that life is too beautiful and precious and full of ever-expanding amazing things for people to have ANY excuse to be close-minded and bigoted just because they were “raised that way.”

    There are good things in the South, but the bad far outweighs the good, and you can import the good to other places.

    So, to summarize: I am proud to be an American and a global citizen. I am done with the South (at least the bad parts and the bad people, of which there is a huge portion). I’m married. I’m moving on with my life.

    And most importantly, I’m ending this blog.

    Beaux, AKA Stephen Dixon

  2. Shaved Ice

    April 8, 2014 by The Yum Yum

    Rereading “The Teahouse Fire” by Ellis Avery, I encounter the phenomenon in 19th century Japan of people eating shaved ice with syrup.

    Of course, the book remarks about how the foreigners like their syrup very sweet and so on, and naturally, the shaved ice is a lovely way to stay cool in the hot summer months pre-electricity and air conditioning.

    Shaved ice was at one time literally shaved off an ice block, though in the modern era, it’s typically done by a machine. However, I began to wonder: did I really have to go out and buy a dedicated machine? Wouldn’t something like a food processor work?

    Well, mine did! And the syrup? Not difficult, either.

    Basically, most syrup recipe require water and double the sugar. So, one cup of water with two cups of sugar and so on.

    The trick is that in modern era, we don’t have to rely on actual fruit and so on; we can just get unsweetened flavor packets and toss them in with the syrup. Boom!

    However, for the more refined palate, that won’t do.

    So, what did I make?

    As a nod to Japan and also a nod to my being a Westerner, I made black tea syrup.

    In other words, my shaved ice is going to taste like good, Southern, sweetened iced tea.

    It isn’t hot outside today; the weather is sweetly cool, perfect Spring weather. But when the summer hits, especially magnificent July and especially August, the weather will be hot in the South unlike it is in many places in the USA.

    And then, my shaved ice secret will come to the rescue.


  3. Scathing Reviews of the Jacksonville Vacation, Food and All

    March 29, 2014 by The Yum Yum

    Time for a rant that’s going to be entirely too long.

    Well, we stayed at a place that I now blatantly refer to as a “roach” motel. Tate and I actually saw a roach one morning while Christopher was on a breakfast run.

    Also, the Wi-Fi at the Red Roof Inn SUCKED. I could access the internet here and there, but for the most part, I only got low signal that went out in a minute or two, and sometimes, even when I connected, I couldn’t do anything on the network.

    Do not advertise “Free Wi-Fi” when your “Wi-Fi” is the equivalent of having “free running water” when what you mean is that you have a leak in the attic. Yes, the water is free and running, but it’s effectively worth nothing.

    The motel room smelled like a combination of mildew and cigarettes; Chris even bought Febreeze to try to get rid of the smell. I’ve stayed in a lot of motel rooms, but none that smelled as awful as this one.

    The clerk also told Chris that the pool was “heated.” Of course, not having been born yesterday, I knew that was complete and utter horse manure. I ventured to the pool while we were out and about, and yup, the water was ICY.

    Oh, and the motel room bathroom? It was easily the size of an Easy Bake Oven. I’ve been in a lot of motels and hotels, but again, I don’t recall the bathrooms ever being THAT small.

    So, on to the food.

    I ate at Denny’s for the first time in my life, twice in one day, for Breakfast and Lunch. The food is pretty much okay, but the lunch tortilla was supposed to come with sour cream and pico de gallo; they served it with ranch dressing instead.

    The breakfast skillet consisting of egg whites and various vegetables was okay and would’ve been better had it not been so bland.

    The best place from which we got food was a place called “Boston’s,” a pizza and sports bar. I had some kind of mac and cheese from there, and yup, they knew what they were doing.

    Let’s recap:

    Monday, we arrived, and Chris’s family came by the motel room to visit us. By his family, I mean Granny, Mom, and Sister.

    Tuesday, the family came by again, and we ventured to the beach for about an hour. Afterward, we went to Boston’s to get the delicious food. I think Chris’s brother and nephew came by that day, too.

    Wednesday, we had the whole Denny adventure. I don’t think we ate anywhere that night, though, just leftovers from Burger King breakfast runs.

    Thursday, we went to the river walk in downtown Jacksonville and went shopping. We stopped at the food court, and I also had “Zoltar” the mechanical fortune teller tell me a fortune for a dollar.

    Oh, well, the fortune was pretty ridiculous.

    I had a slice of New York-style pizza at the Food Court served up by some of the friendliest and most efficient people we met in Jacksonville- that was definitely some of the best food I had all week.

    Friday, we went to Mom’s house and went walking around noon, and then we came back to eat a lunch of fruit, cheese, and olives and to watch the Disney movie “Frozen.” That night, when Chris’s stepdad returned home from work, we all went out to eat at Golden Corral. I haven’t been there in probably ten years, and I gravitated toward the fish and the macaroni and cheese, of course.

    Today, there had been talk about going to the zoo with Chris’s cousins, but it was supposed to rain (and I prayed that it would), so we skipped all that in exchange for just returning home.

    AND in the middle of all that, we acquired his sister’s blue merle chihuahua whom we’ve dubbed “Angelo.” He’s currently adjusting to his new home.

    So, that was my week- I didn’t cook once.

    Oh, yeah, and the kids (Tate and Dakota) were really loud and screaming all week. Yeesh.

    I guess I didn’t rant as much as I thought I would. Hmm. Good for me! And now, back to real life so I can start cooking.


  4. VEGAN Parmesan?! But yes!

    March 7, 2014 by The Yum Yum

    My latest culinary obsession is the use of something called “Nutritional Yeast Flakes,” also known as “nooch” in online jargon.

    “Nooch” sounds pretty funny but also dirty.

    Nooch has all kinds of uses and actually tastes pretty good once cooked; it’s alleged to impart a kind of cheesy or nutty taste to food, which is pretty accurate.

    But smelling it on its own is awful.

    A large canister of nooch has been sitting in the pantry for a while, so I’ve started to make use of it recently, and the flavor’s growing on me.

    Earlier, I found a recipe to make VEGAN PARMESAN using almonds and nooch; I tweaked the recipe.

    The basic recipe is

    1/2 cup nooch
    1/3 cup raw almonds
    3 garlic cloves
    1/2 teaspoon to a teaspoon of salt

    Pop it all into a food processor and grind away until you’ve reached the consistency you like. You can add more less of the various ingredients as you see fit.

    The taste surprised me; it’s not exactly like parmesan because the “nutty” flavor is much stronger, but I bet that it works in an identical way in terms of taste when you put it pasta and so on!

    Nooch is very healthy, by the way, as the same seems to imply.


  5. Lent Begins!

    March 6, 2014 by The Yum Yum

    Well, the famous poundcake baker, me, has given up desserts and sugar for Lent this year…gah!

    40 days and nights without sugar isn’t that big of a deal. Technically, though, you can break your fast on such things on Sundays during Lent; the idea is that rules and strictness have to be relaxed sometimes so your temptations don’t actually overcome you.

    I baked some more bread the other day! Woohoo! I LOVE baking bread!

    Chris took me and Tathan to Margaritaville last Saturday during Pier Park’s Mardi Gras; I had a dish called “Seafood Mac’n'cheese.”

    Well, what to make of it…it was okay…I would give it three stars out of five. Honestly, my macaroni and cheese is waaaay better. I could take seafood and toss it in with my macaroni and cheese and have a much happier, tastier meal.

    Chris didn’t necessarily agree; he liked the Alfredo sauce that went with the seafood macaroni and cheese.

    The shrimp, I daresay, were overcooked. Shrimp, like many items in seafood, is one of those foods that if you cook it too long, it comes out tough and rubbery. Seafood should be tender and easily chewed.

    Also, the macaroni and cheese came as a kind of gratin (with bread crumbs) on top. The problem is, they weren’t bread crumbs. Someone had crushed up cracker and placed on top of the macaroni and cheese.

    Basically, I could do a better job, and I know it. I hate to be snide about these things, but it’s the truth.

    The atmosphere of Margaritaville AND Pier Park was top-notch for Mardi Gras, though.

    Here’s to good cooking!


  6. Happy Birthday in Ms. Alice’s Wonderland

    February 8, 2014 by The Yum Yum

    Since I’m writing this blog later at night, I guess most people might not really care to read it, but whatever…

    Today was Ms. Alice’s birthday. Even though she’s not actually related to me, I remember her on my ancestor altar because she played a large role in my formative years; you can read about those things elsewhere on my blog.

    Yesterday (Friday), I used some leftover rice and made rice with butter- a staple for lunch in Ms. Alice’s house.

    Also, did we ever mention that we ate lunch there at an obscenely early time? Yes- lunch happened around 9 in the morning or so because we would watch the Price is Right afterward- and that doesn’t come on until 10 AM.

    Anyway, Ms. Alice’s food was delectable all the way around!

    So today, I made a pound cake. I haven’t baked pound cake in a while, and my stepson, the forever picky eater, somehow mentioned pound cake and wanted to try it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what a good idea it was.

    Well, I must’ve done something wrong because my poundcake didn’t quite turn out the way I imagined; I mean, it was good, don’t get me wrong, but I think I didn’t put enough flour in it or something because it didn’t look like it had risen very much, and normally, they’re a little larger than that.

    I didn’t really make enough to put in the bundt cake pan that Gigi gave me last year, but I should try that next go-around.

    Anyway, Happy Birthday, Ms. Alice, and may your soul be at peace and pray for us as we pray for you!!!


  7. Rilakkuma, Hello Kitty, Schedule Books, and Organization

    January 29, 2014 by The Yum Yum

    Recently, I posted about the Hello Kitty calendar along with my new little Hello Kitty monthly planner.

    Then I randomly learned about something called Japanese Schedule Books.

    These schedule books are the same as generic American planners…except they come in all kinds of variations, styles, and are often incredibly CUTE.

    Aesthetics are a weird thing. No, they aren’t everything- as a foodie, I can tell you that I have zero interest in something that looks cute or pretty but has a terrible flavor or is incredibly bland; I would rather have something that’s super delicious but doesn’t look so great.

    However, when you combine the two- aesthetics and flavor- you wind up with something incredibly brilliant.

    That’s probably what gourmet cooking is all about.

    So, I began looking for a CHEAP Japanese Schedule Book- since they have to be imported from Japan, they’re basically only available as speciality shops.

    I was originally eyeing a Hello Kitty one, but then I found a cheaper one that was also cute. It included a character named “Rilakkuma.”

    I’ve seen Rilakkuma around more recently, and I discovered he’s another cute character made in Japan from a different company than Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty is made by Sanrio; Rilakkuma is made by SAN-X.

    Rilakkuma looks basically like this:

    Rilakkuma, Relaxing

    He’s a bear that likes to relax.

    The Japanese accent on the English word “relax” sounds like “ri ra kkusu” or “ri la kkusu.”

    The Japanese word for “bear” is “kuma.”

    So, we get

    “ri la kkuma”

    Neat, huh?

    So, I’ve now become OBSESSED with Rilakkuma. He’s adorable and often shown eating tasty food, and he encourages you to relax- something a stressful, anxiety-ridden individual such as myself needs to take into account.

    In other news, I baked bread again yesterday, just a plain white loaf that was round in shape. It tasted amazing; I even sliced off some bread and made cheese toast for myself and a ham-and-cheese sandwich for Chris.

    Honestly, it’s rare for that to happen because the bread is normally so good by itself that I don’t want to wait to use it for sandwiches or toast or anything. Store-bought bread just can’t compare at all!

    Bread’s actually pretty easy to make once you know the basic formula! It just requires a lot of effort kneading.

    That’s all for now! I’ll post more about Rilakkuma and my new Japanese Schedule Book when it arrives in the mail!


  8. More Tea Kettle Happiness

    January 28, 2014 by The Yum Yum

    At long, long last, I have a teakettle of my own.

    I remember my grandmother boiling water in a tea kettle on the stove whenever I was a child.

    Teakettles remind me of the good parts of my childhood and of my grandmother preparing breakfast.

    There’s something fascinating about listening to the teakettle whistle. I’ve made so many cups of tea with my new teakettle but have yet to simply make an entire pot of tea.

    Maybe I should go do that now.

    In other foodie news, I recently started baking bread again. I made a round-ish loaf and then a very failed attempted at a baguette. The baguette tasted fine- it just wasn’t very pretty.

    Chris said the round loaf of bread was the best loaf I’ve made yet.

    The cute thing is that Chris always says that no matter what I make; it’s the best yet!

    The exception? The oyster stew I made at his mom’s house wasn’t as good as the oyster stew I made for my father on his birthday last year.

    The weather is cold; a winter storm approaches, and we may see snow. Snow! In Florida!

    I’ve also been preparing a lot of plain white rice recently. No matter what, I can never seem to just enjoy plain rice; I always have to season it with salt or something. Just plain rice is too bland, not unlike bread that’s made without enough salt.

    Soon, I’m going to start doing better planning for this blog so that I have various topics to discuss and recipes to try. Wish me luck!


  9. Gochujang

    January 16, 2014 by The Yum Yum

    Gochujang is a type of spicy Korean sauce. If you can possibly get any, do- it’s delicious and goes with just about everything!

    Lately, I’ve been making an interesting dish consisting of rice topped with an egg topped with gochujang.

    It’s fantastic.

    Also, I’ve been eating a lot of tangerines. The Love’s tangerines are seedless.

    They’re also fun to call “Love Tangerines.”

    Change is in the air. I feel things shifting for an even greater time soon.

  10. Happy New Year!

    January 4, 2014 by The Yum Yum

    Sure, my post is a little belated, but whatever.

    A few years ago, my friend Heather Ueno, an American woman living in Japan, explained to us that Christmas isn’t the biggest holiday in Japan. Instead, New Year’s is the biggest holiday.

    New Year’s technically is the first three days of the year, but some places extend the whole event for a week or so.

    So, I took it upon myself to make New Year’s a less disappointing festival in my life.

    For a while, New Year’s was a MISERABLE day filled with disgusting food. Somewhere in the history of the South, some jackass got the bright idea to eat black-eyed peas, hog jowl, cornbread, and collard-freakin’-greens for “luck and money.”

    None of these things are lucky to me. In fact, those are the sort of things I would feed prisoners if I took any. It’s a tragic way to start off the New Year.

    The New Year should be about NEW beginnings, about scaring away the evil spirits of the past year, welcoming the good spirits of the New Year, welcoming all the blessings, prosperity, luck, happiness, love, and good things about life so that the entire year is primed by something just amazingly excellent.

    So, in other words, New Year’s should involve good food and good celebration- not perfunctory backwards glancing.

    Chris resolved for me to make macaroni and cheese as he’s never had it. Lucky me, I had a yellow bundt cake pan from Gigi- so yellow-gold in yellow-gold represents, well, GOLD…money!

    This New Year’s featured a few traditions I’ve started.

    First, on New Year’s Eve, I lit some candles outside, including a special golden candle I dubbed the “New Year’s Candle.”

    I lit sticks of incense (outside) to help our prayers ascend to God and to scare away bad spirits/harmful wishes against us.

    We had good-luck chocolate money that we shared on New Year’s Day, and we played Hanafuda cards, a tradition that’s done in Japan. It’s unfortunate that I can’t really get anyone to play with me because those cards are cool.

    Oh, and I also sent out a ton of New Year’s e-cards, but I think those all arrived on New Year’s Eve when they *really* should have arrived on New Year’s Day. Phooey.

    Anyway, I made so much macaroni and cheese that we ate on it for three days.

    It’s also so unhealthy that eating it but once a year is the only reasonable course of action.

    The mac-n-cheese actually came out with a creamier consistency than I had imagined, but that’s a good thing; it was so good that I should call it my “Crack Mac” cos you have it just once and then you’re addicted!

    Anyway, I have the best wishes for all people everywhere for the New Year. Woohoo.

    Oh, and we also ate tangerines. And I put out Maneki Neko, the good-luck Japanese kitty statue.