Nothing succeeds like sucrose

Just a fraction of the goodies pouring into the office are pictured here. I’m powerless to resist sugar. So a lot of what you see is in my belly heading for my hips.

I may have to cave in and buy some big-waisted “eatin’ pants.” 

Then we had our third of three office Christmas parties. I’m not saying there’s more pressure because we are an office of cookbook editors, I’m just saying that we all still talk about the time SOMEONE brought Kroger green beans. At least the veterans have learned to put the takeout stuff in their own dishes.


This is the “protein” end of the table. Here’s the “side dish” end to the right, featuring a bounty of delicious sugar- and dairy-intensive foods.

But I’m a-tell you a secret. I ate dessert first. By then, I was too full for real food, so I didn’t get to taste the grape salad, which everyone said was great. It’s barely visible in the upper right of the right hand picture.

It’s the same concoction my mom used to call White Grapes Divine, and serve for dessert. It’s a staple of the Junior League cookbook. Except Arkansas — two of this year’s crop of books are Arkansas books, and both include this recipe, which has begun making the rounds of the hostess set there. It took 38 years for a recipe to reach northwest Arkansas from Middle Tennessee, and in the process, it changed from a dessert to a salad. There’s a story there somewhere.

Layer grapes in a shallow dish. Spread a little brown sugar and a spoonful of rum over them. Chill thoroughly. To serve, spread a thin layer of sour cream over them. It’s got animal lipids, sugar and fruit, so right there is a winning holiday formula.

Carb counters avert your eyes. Here is the dessert table, featuring pumpkin trifle with a gingersnap layer, cranberry tort in a cookie crust, chocolate chip praline pie and Butterfinger fluff. Moan. Whimper. I’m sorry you have to see me like this.

600 pounds of men, 12 ounces of sausage

Special bonus Avalanche!

When a big fella from the South discovered Jimmy Dean reduced the size of its bulk pack from a pound to 12 ounces for the same price, switching to oatmeal was out of the question. Click the link to hear his call to the consumer complaint line. Starts out calm, gets madder and madder, so listen all the way to the end but shut the door and cover the kids’ ears. And then come back here and tell me what you heard.

It really IS the most wonderful time of the year

My holiday kicks off each year with my neighbor’s annual Thanksgiving open house. I get to party without cooking or cleaning, drink before noon, see fun people AND eat something made with condensed soup.

She’s been throwing this party for 27 years, so it runs like clockwork, and everyone has a routine by now. Here, we indulge in the annual gluttony of Shrimp Mousse.

    The Shrimp Mousse is your basic Southern entertaining formula – animal lipid-plus seafood-plus-hot stuff-– in a fish-shaped mold. Some years it is elaborately decorated, with olive “eyes” and cucumber “scales.” In the early 1990s it took a turn to the low-fat side. One year it broke in half and was repaired with cream cheese.

As you can see from the yellowing, cracking recipe, the ingredients are the same. But this year, the mousse was especially good. Perhaps it was the pickle decorations.
The party combined old faves with a new feature: a monster slab of flourless chocolate truffle cake for the birthday of the oldest daughter.

Every time I spotted my child Sweet Cheeks, she was stuffing chocolate decadence into her mouth. She ate at least five pieces, and by the party’s end, was so amped on caffeine that she cried for an hour. Ah, the holidays.

I was so consumed with gluttony and photography that I missed my annual chat with my friend Stuart. Sorry Stu. We’ll catch up next year.

Those Breasts! Those Thighs! Too, too hot!

I love fun people of all kinds, but food people are fun and delicious.

Today for lunch I met up with other food bloggers at Prince’s Hot Chicken.

The hand-painted sign just tells you you’re gonna need a bunch of napkins.

They sell water in extra-big bottles cuz you  need it, that’s why.

Everything about it is delicious, from the crisp coating to the just-enough dose of cayenne. There really are never enough napkins. If someone asks you to bring lunch, better take along a plastic bag — this stuff is juicy, sho nuff.

My pals ClaudiaCeeElCee and El Zorro were there, and we had this running joke… well, you had to be there. Next time, you should come along. We had cake for dessert and everything!

Note to Pentagon: Skip the Banana Cake

You know that bumper sticker that you see occasionally, “What if schools had all that money they needed and the Pentagon had to hold a bake sale”? The Pentagon would be would do well to put our local elementary school in charge of it.

It’s a bake sale in the same sense that Niagara Falls is a creek – over the top, wildly exceeding any expectations you might have. What you see here is a fraction of one table.

    You’d never know that inside those SUVs, under those tennis hats beat the hearts of professional pastry chefs. Dozens of perfectly decorated cupcakes cradled in specially-designed boxes. Dozens of brownies wrapped in seasonal cellophane and decorated with seasonal trinkets like plastic spiders, as an incentive to buy. Carefully decorated cookies heaped in a basket and priced to sell for pocket money. “Dirt cake” in colorful paper cups packed with a spoon. Goodie bags of three snickerdoodles and a chocolate kiss.

Mama knows what kids like. And has a marketing degree, too.

And then there are the items designed to bring out the parents’ checkbooks. Coffeecakes, focaccia, honey-oat bread, dinner rolls, Moravian sugar cake, challah. baguettes, sourdough.

But the prize goes to the mom whose cake-baking is her therapy and who apparently owns the largest deep freezer in town.

The first year I encountered Super Baker Mom, I brought in 3 homemade cakes, which took all weekend to make, and was proud. Super Baker Mom’s offerings numbered in the double digits. It’s grown each year since, and this year, the bake sale committee had to set up risers to hold all her cakes.

Thirty one-of-a-kind, professionally decorated cakes, priced around $35 apiece. Peanut butter, chocolate, pumpkin, blueberry, more chocolate, spice. You can hear the checkbooks flexing spreading their legs. The only slow seller was banana cake. Same thing happened when I baked a banana spice cake with caramel icing and orange sparkling sugar.

I was going to document the fabulous parade of cakes, but my pathetic camera (and, let’s face it, the clueless operator) couldn’t get it all in, and then the memory card ran out of space. We raised more than $1000 — the committee doesn’t trouble my artsy head with figures.