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When it comes to cooking . . .this Cat can Cook! Very Cooky!


The Internet is full of cats these days. Here's a Cat among cats. The one who put the puss in his boots. The very one whom the Ad Biggies referred to when they said, "let's put it out on the back stoop and see if the cat licks it up."

Cooky Cat cooks from scratch. (No claw-related pun intended.) You’ll find not so much recipes, as suggestions. The world, after all, doesn’t need another cook book. A certain culinary skill is expected to dig this cat.

Inspiration is what is needed. And Cooky Cat brings it. A sense of humor also wouldn't hurt. He kids... but, always, he loves. In his own words, "Just kitting."

We give you... Cooky Cat!

The Cooky Cat is into cooking. He can be a playful kitty, sometimes prone to exaggerating the facts (he can be a down right fibber), but always true blue when it comes to steering you in the right direction kitchen-wise. Take what he may say otherwise with a grain of salt. Just shoe him off your lap(top) when he gets too frisky for you.  

Cooky Cat can cook anything (he is not vouching for its edibility, however). Don't expect recipes and treatments on the more conventional dishes. [E.G., regarding omelets... Wisk a few fresh eggs, shake and stir in a pan with some butter, fold onto plate. Done. Next.]

Cooky Cat is also very straight ahead in the kitchen. No stunt foods. So don't expect any of those trendy piled high ego displays or cakes made to look like... whatever. Take this pledge: "I will never again watch a cake show on television." About foam... you can't even get him anywhere near the foam of a bubble bath. And, as few gadgets as possible. It took him years to get around to a Cuisinart processor; prior, it was the trusty Benriner mandoline.

He also vigorously eschews the trend to overly combine wildly disparate ingredients or overly sauce and/or multi-spice recipes. Things do have their own taste and Cooky Cat stands for letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

His motto: Create meals from what looks good at the market, always looking first for what is seasonal, fresh, and local. Shopping to a recipe is a way to go, but many times slavishly sticking to that approach can be frustrating if you can't find the ingredients; it forces compromises if what's only available is of lesser quality, and it is certainly the most expensive approach. Quality costs, and pays off in the long run; but when it's on sale, go for it. By and large, you get what you pay for.

There have been comments from certain quarters that the recipes are not detailed enough. The point Cooky Cat is making has to do with conveying the secret ingredient to all good cooking. If you want the specifics, just do a search and zillions of options magically appear. To repeat, the world does not need another cook book!

Now go ahead, scratch around and see what Cooky Cat has for YOU!

A faithful follower of Cooky Cat  shows her appreciation. . .



You Don't Tell an Italian How to Make Tomato Sauce

Recently I learned that an old friend had passed away. His name is Joseph Oddo. Joe.

Somehow a lot of strings got tied together. Beautifully.

Not long ago I got a Facebook friend request from someone whose relationship with me wasn't clear. I interact on a private professional page and assumed he was a colleague. I didn't inquire further and accepted the invitation. On LinkedIn, the more the merrier. Yet it still nagged me a bit when Joe liked something or other I shared, but still I didn't inquire further.

Very recently I got a notice that he had passed away. Still I didn't look any further.

Then shortly after that news my partner Michele was cooking and asked me about that fellow I had always mentioned who never tasted the food he was preparing; but used his nose, his sense of smell.

It all came together.

Time was when I offered service at a meditation ashram in New York City. Joe Oddo was a contemporary. Offering service (Seva) is part of the dharma, and Joe and I did a lot of work in the kitchen, assisting the cooking of daily evening meals for up to 100, special events for 100's.

Once the community was asked to take over all the kitchen activities, and cover the work with volunteers from the community itself. Prior to that a full time dedicated cook was on staff to head the kitchen. I was asked to fill that role. (If you know about working in the Guru's ashram, you know your ego will get, well, challenged. All in the process of purification to be sure. But, challenged — better, pricked — and sometimes it feels like fire. We people have our differences, don't you know.

Well here I am as manager of the kitchen having to train people to cook full meals for large numbers. Some volunteer cooks with no prior experience. Just how do you cook a pot of rice for 100 servings? And, as I said, each with their own set of experience, backgrounds and temperaments. Plus the policy to cook only for the number reserved for the meal. Little or no leftovers.

If you've ever been in a position to manage a group of people you know it's a dance. Something between wanting to get your way all the time and feeling utterly useless in the face of the inexorable tide of things. Usually, the experience is closer to the latter. You sit back and watch it happen. Adding a little seasoning here and there. Of course, if you are properly placed to manage in a situation, you also know when to call a foul or stop something from going wrong. In the Guru's Kitchen you learn to orchestrate with a light hand. Yet, you will feel the heat in that Kitchen, sometimes get burned. If you are a true Yogi, you take that in stride too. You don't put a pot on to boil that your soul doesn't feel the heat.

Our Joe Oddo cooked with his nose. As many times as I tried to get him to taste the food, he wouldn't. His nose told him everything. Mother's knee sort of thing, I believe. Now I could get all up into a hot argument about how in the hell he could determine the right amount of salt, but he wasn't the sort who was open to that kind of discussion/argument. His speciality was Italian Tomato Sauce. And, like I said, you don't tell an Italian how to make his sauce.

Tomato Sauce aside, Joe also, during my reign in the kitchen anyway, never mastered the knack of cooking right to the expected number of people. When Joe cooked we had leftovers. Where in terms of taste his nose knew, in terms of quantity Joe seemed to cook by eye. I never was able to get him into the math of calibrating the final goal amounts based on number of guests, serving sizes, cooked volume versus raw. But, Joe was a good cook and we folded his, ahem, abundance into the next meal.

I had also vividly remembered a time when Joe and I and a few others set about to fix the stone steps leading down from the sidewalk at the Ashram. Joe took charge. Let's just say, his way and mine were different. I fumed. (Remember, you burn in the Guru's House.) Not least for having to speed off very near retail closing time on Saturday fetching bags of concrete. Double burn. We literally took the stairs apart and rebuilt them. Fine enough, except the treads we reset were not the same vertical distance apart. In short, not right. We hired a stone mason — Italian to boot! — and it was done correctly.

I had told Michele this story many times, clearly remembering Joe, but forgetting his last name. Then she asked what was his name and I instantly said Joe Oddo.


Confession. I had remembered Joe — and so many others from my past history — mainly for the ways in which we rubbed each other the wrong way. This had been a nagging point of discord for me in my sadhana. Something unfinished. Remembering the past, and coming up with mostly sore memories. The word is Forgiveness. A word. But it's the act that matters. That counts.

I've always held that the time of a loved one's, or even an acquaintance's passing, is a time of blessing. So too with Joe Oddo.

I remember Joe very fondly and now those recollections warm and gladden my heart. I do apologize, Joe, for not recognizing you when you requested being a Facebook friend. You are a friend in a much larger sense than that. A friend of my heart. I love you. Happy trails.

Om Namah Shivaya!

Jai Guru, Hai!

If you get into that heavenly kitchen and cook up some sauce, don't overdo it. The Boss there is strict. But, as the joke goes, there aren't that many to cook for anyway.


Chinese Food for Social Media

If you are one of those sorts who likes to share pictures of foods you've prepared, or foods you are eating RIGHT NOW! at some fancy joint, you may have been stumped a few times or so.

Specifically, when what you whipped up on the stove is just not all that pretty for a picture. For example, your Matzo Brei, Boiled Noddles, Grits, Pea Soup.

Here is the solution to your problemo, Muchacho/a!

Introducing Instant Chinese Wok, a PNG file image of a Chinese Wok to overlay on your boring, bland, just downright plain looking stuff.

Simply overlay the PNG file image above and you got you food looking proper Chinese, just like Friend David Wronski does with his social media posts. 

Behold . . . 


Swing-A-Way Vegetable Peeler

I you happen to own a Swing-A-Way we know you swear by it. At least, the one once made in the USA. It'll last you forever.

As for the vegetable peeler they market, it's something you swear at. Also, I've learned that now that the opener also comes from offshore, the Amazon review is that's it lousy. Corporations! Outsourcing!

Does anyone still know what products made in the USA stood for? It's not just about the Red, White, and Blue. Long lasting. Overbuilt. Bulletproof. Solid. Like that.

We're getting our second replacement peeler from the manufacturer. First one was dull as a mud fence. The one that replaced it fell apart. A vegetable peeler that falls apart! Swing-A-Way!

Here's the chronicle we submitted to Amazon . . . on the sale page for the Swing-A-Way Potato Peeler . . .

Step 1.

My Swing-A-Way can opener is bulletproof, reliable, well made . . . the only one you'll ever need. Also with that Made in the USA robust design and materials. The peeler . . . the exact opposite. It has been sitting in our drawer for a few years. I couldn't believe how poorly it worked. In fact, it never worked. I did call their customer service on that, but I must've made the wrong connection. The company at the time listed for that product answered as if I got the parking attendant's booth. Dead zone. Since I recently purchased the Jonas (Made in Sweden) peeler and found it to be light years better than anything I've ever used (not sticking peels, they just fly away. Razor sharp too.) I made another attempt to contact AmcoHouseworks only to find their customer number on the website is for retailers only. No listed number for consumers. They directed me to another number for consumers. The representative who answered the phone was rather uninterested in hearing that they were difficult to reach. I will be receiving a replacement and hope that the original unit was just a fluke. It was just such a shock after my glowing experience with the can opener. Customer service . . . C-. Yes, I'm getting a replacement, but sometimes a dissatisfied customer also wants to be heard. Deaf ears was my experience.

Step 2.

Got the replacement. Worked great. The new one had a sharp blade. Then, after about a dozen uses, the blade came away from the central shaft to which it is attached. A small length of metal either was never there or broke off the crimp collar which holds the blade to the shaft; so it couldn't surround the shaft and hold secure. After another lengthy search to find customer service I finally got a number. Will call tomorrow during business hours. Also wrote an email. Much too much effort over getting something this basic to work, from a company which seems to make so many quality products. And, the replacement was not as good quality as the original one I purchased. Their excellent hand can opener is USA made. I don't think the peeler comes from these shores. I'll report on the next transactions.

Step 3.

Getting yet another replacement. No hassle on that part. Customer service there confirmed all Swing-A-Way products are now made in China.

It's an interesting look into corporate ownership. Used to be a Made in USA product(s) with management probably within shouting distance of shipping. Now management is virtually inaccessible to peons like me; customer service might as well be in another state; quality control in another; and the production line in some backwater, and likely only accessible through some front company in Hong Kong. With manufacturing contracts won based on ballpark quality and lower costs. The previous replacement product was clearly not even to the quality of the first, which latter was probably also made in China.

Customer service was, well, serviceable. All the rep wanted to do was send me another unit. I finally suggested that I purchased two faulty units and that might be a red flag for somebody. But, in corporate culture, fragmented and distant as the parts are now, that point I’d bet won’t get noticed.

Rant . . . over.

Here's a photo I sent with the email to the manufacturer.

Step 4.

Awaiting replacement peeler.