Women Always Find the Good in Each Other — Garlic helps

Theresa is the first wife of my ex-husband.

Theresa and Fran.JPG

Fran and Theresa the only two members of a very exclusive club.

She rocks.

But for years I didn’t realize that because I was married to my then husband, and his characterizations may not have been completely accurate because pesky emotion was involved.

I should have known better because the son she and my ex had together is absolutely wonderful. You don’t turn out that great if there isn’t someone molding you, and the master molder was Theresa. We only got Brandon a few weekends a month, so we were assistant molders. And I have to say, that my ex was a good dad to Brandon. He loved him completely, Brandon knew it, and that makes a big difference.

But now that my ex is my ex, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Theresa much better. It all started around the time I was getting divorced. I had the massive realization that there were going to be stories out there about me that might be one-sided, colored by emotion and, therefore possibly, not completely true.

I realized then, that for decades, I’d only been getting half the story about her and their relationship.  Much of it was factual, but much was colored by emotion, and we all know emotion is a lousy gauge for accuracy.

As my grandfather Bernardo once said, “You gotta eat a sack of salt with someone before you really know him/her.” It’s so true. You only sprinkle a little salt when you eat, so it takes quite a while to get through a good sized sack of salt and that’s how long it takes to truly know someone.

Sometimes people can fool you, but most of the time, you see what people are about.

So, I wrote to her on Facebook because she was nice enough to friend me after the divorce.  I told her I was sorry if I ever misjudged her, but if I did, it was because I was only getting half the story. I also told her I respected her for being a fantastic mom to Brandon. And I meant every word of it. She was in her early 20’s when he was born. (I would have been a hideous mom at that age!)

I didn’t plan to go on so long about this, because it’s becoming more a story about exes than the yummy garlic spread recipe Theresa shared with me, but it’s a story about how to deal with divorce, and it starts with love.

I knew two things when I first got involved with my ex:

#1. I loved my mom more than anything and would have happily strangled anyone who said anything bad about her.

#2. I knew Brandon loved his mom, so I did my best to always let him know I totally understood and supported him in that love, because I loved my mom too. And I’m sure Theresa did the same for me. Feeling that love and understanding it, makes you much more compassionate.

You never score points with a kid by badmouthing their parent. That lesson came in handy years later when I was getting divorced. God knows it’s hard not to say what you’d like to when you’ve been hurt. But it lessens you, and it hurts your kids who are one half the “other” parent. Of course I’ve slipped, no one’s perfect, but I think my kids have always known that my intention was never to harm their relationship with their dad.

Take that little bit of wisdom to heart, divorced parents. I’ve lived it and I know it’s true.

Now, back to Theresa. Our first meeting without other family members around was a lunch a few years ago. She was visiting family about a half hour away and drove down to meet me for lunch.

The second time we got together alone, she was driving down to see my ex’s mom, Lois, who was very ill. We’d both been wanting to see her and were always told by our mutual ex, that it was a bad time, so she asserted herself and said, “I’m going. You’re welcome to come if you want to Fran.” I did want to go, so she picked me up and off we went.

It’s about a two hour drive to San Diego and back. Turned out, it wasn’t a bad time to visit. Lois was happy to see us and perked right up. And we were so glad we went because she passed away a couple weeks later. Theresa and I talked the entire way there and back. And my suspicions were confirmed, she is totally cool, which explains at least half, or more, of Brandon’s wonderfulness.

But what inspired this blog is that our first meeting, was at Zankou Chicken. We talked nonstop then too.

Zankou chicken.JPG

Zankou chicken.

Zankou Chicken appears to only have locations in Southern California, but I think it’s worth a trip here, it’s that good. The first time my father tasted it, he took a bite, chewed, then looked up at me with a glee I rarely saw him exhibit, and said, “Holy hell, this is good! His eyes opened wider and he said,  “This is the best chicken I’ve ever had!”

After years of my mom’s cooking, he knew good food.

I’m not sure what they put on the outside of their rotisserie chickens, it could be toum, a garlicky paste, but their chicken turns out incredibly flavorful with a slightly salty, almost sticky skin you’re helpless to resist, even if you’re not a chicken skin fan. But the crowning glory is the small pot of creamy, white, garlicky spread, they serve with it. We used to call “Garlic Goo,” before we learned its real name is toum.  Toum apparently means garlic in Lebanese.

It’s amazing! And Theresa, who has a reputation for being a fabulous cook, just whipped up a batch.  She was kind enough to send me the recipe and I’m passing it on to you.  This recipe makes a lot, but maybe you can invite your husband or wife’s ex over to help you eat it. It’s great on chicken, but is probably good on anything!

Because I have been running myself ragged trying to get all things done, I did not have time to make toum tonight to test out Theresa’s recipe. But I totally trust her and you will definitely become addicted to it. It doesn’t look that appetizing, but wait until you taste it!

Toum, by Theresa Lobue

Toum.JPG

They give you two or three little containers of toum at Zankou…but we always ask for more.

1 cup peeled garlic gloves

4 cups grapeseed oil

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice 1 to 2 lemons

1/2 to 1 tsp salt
In a sturdy blender add the peeled garlic and half the salt. Blend until fine. Scrape down sides. Turn blender on highest setting and stream in 3 cups of oil. This takes time, about fifteen mins. Scrape down sides occasionally. With blender on high add lemon juice slowly then the last cup of the oil. Taste for salt. The garlic sauce should be the consistency of mayonnaise. Use it on everything that calls for oil and garlic. Theresa says one of her favorite ways to enjoy it is on pita with a bit of flake salt.
There is another recipe on the Splendid Table website, which calls for two cups of garlic,  a half teaspoon of salt, three cups of oil, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and 1/3 cup of water. And the Lebanese Kitchen has yet other ratios of ingredients and one that got good ratings is from the Kevin is Cooking blog. Which is better?  I’m not sure, but I’m going to make it and find out. I just need to find the time.  Let me know if you make it!

Pasta Sundays

Uncle Richard at Christmas

Uncle Richard at Christmas, in my, “My Sauce is Better Than Yours Apron.”My daughter says his sauce really is better.

I was talking to my Uncle Richard over the weekend. He was telling me how he misses the days when his grandkids were little and he used to cook every Sunday.
His lucky daughter, son-in-law and their kids, along with my dad,  were invited over every Sunday to eat pasta. He’d make a different pasta every week, including rigatoni, linguini with clams, gnocci, lasagne, aglio olio and others, and they were all great. Now he just cooks for himself and my aunt because everyone’s either grown up, dead, or too busy, and he says it’s not the same. He misses the family. Continue reading

Coffee Cake Biscotti — Oh Yes!

I have bounced around the idea of starting a biscotti business for over a year. My family rolls their collective eyes when they hear this because I flit from one idea to another like a fruit fly. Continue reading

Love You, Not Your Decorations

I was talking to my sister-in-law, Patty, who is on crutches this holiday. Nothing makes a woman crazier than not being able to whirl around in a frenzy of Christmas preparation insanity,  so she was already apologizing for her house probably not being up to snuff.

I told her not to worry, I’m not coming to visit the decorations or the house. I’m coming to see my family.

As my mother so eloquently put it: “Wenna you’re dead a da house will steel a be dorty. Da hell witta da housework!”

Dear God, the woman was brilliant. Continue reading

What Illicit Sex and Pulled Pork Have in Common

Few things bring me the uncontrollable joy of a juicy pulled pork sandwich. (Should a single woman ever admit that?) I know pork isn’t health food, but if you don’t eat something decadent every once in a while, where’s the joy in living?

Juicy, tender pulled pork.

Juicy, tender pulled pork.

Especially if, like me, you eat salads, chicken, vegetables and tofu. Yes, you can make them taste great, but there’s something wicked and exciting about eating something a little trashy. It’s probably like having an affair. You know you shouldn’t, but the pull is undeniable.  That’s why I have to be toweled off when I get to cook and write about melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork. It’s like the one night stand of foods.

Clearly, I’m a shameless pork addict.  Continue reading

Alex is Getting Married? But She’s Only 12, Isn’t She?

Alex helping me bathe Milena in the sink.

Alex helping me bathe Milena in the sink.

Alex is getting married.  I find this hard to believe because, according to my calculations, she is still twelve and helping me bathe my daughter in the kitchen sink. I was never good at math. Continue reading

Step-kids and Lasagne Sundays

My kids were gone for a mini-family reunion at their dad’s house for the Fourth of July and I missed them, so I wanted to cook something wonderful when they returned. It was Sunday and my Italian soul longed for lasagne. It was just special enough that my devious plan, to get them (including my daughter’s boyfriend)  to stay for a meal, worked. Now that’s success. (See what my mother taught me? You bribe your kids with food.) Continue reading