7.28.2005

Cheese Racing

Yes, folks, cheese racing. The basic concept, if you are as confused as I was: everyone throws down a slice of Kraft wrapped in plastic on the BBQ, whoever's inflates furthest fastest wins. Best explained by this pic:


No, the plastic doesn't melt (!), but CRASS, the Cheese Racing Association, suggests using those cheap-o disposable supermarket bbqs just in case. Also, easier clean-up. Also on their site, entertaining pics, complete rules, tips from the pros and advice on hosting your own racing event.

Start your processed cheese food slices.

Eat Local Challenge: warm ups

In line with the recommendations of the Locavores, I'm getting mentally ready, and defining my own level of commitment. So far I've got three exceptions:

1. Coffee
2. Everything already in my pantry. Since I have a ton of olive oil, beans, rice, salt, pepper and so on this seems very much cheating. There will be no stocking up, but I am going to use what I already have. It doesn't make any sense to me, or to the mission of this thing, to waste food.
3. Wednesday night secret dinner club meetings. I'd tell you more but then I'd have to kill you.

Since I'm pretty close to eating locally already - all meat, veggies, milk, eggs - I'm not too concerned about my success with this endeavor, except for one very strong anxiety: bread.

A couple bizarrely overlapping resources if you are working on your own challenge:

Local Harvest

Food Routes

The best source of info about the challenge and about eating locally is the blog Life Begins at 30


Small Farms points out this relevant diner, in Barre, Vermont: Farmer's Diner. It's not in my local scene, being 69 miles over the 100 mile limit, but for someone else, I think it certainly counts. I was impressed with this quick clean argument for local eating:

Buying and selling so much local food creates significant social returns. Every $1,000,000 in annual sales at a diner translates into 350 acres of farmland in production, 15 farmers with gross sales of $50,000, 13 new farm jobs, and $1,200,000 in land conservation costs saved. Because of local production and shortened delivery routes each $1 million in sales saves at least 10 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. (Johnson School of Business, Cornell University Social Venture Competition study 2001/2002)

That is, if you find farmland and open spaces desirable in your community, which I do.

7.27.2005

Legit Summer Wines from Slate

I get a little embarrassed as I pull out sweet white after sweet white wine all through the summer. But it's all I want to drink when the weather is fine and summer squash is on the menu. Our wine collection (yo - who amoungst you ever thought you'd have one? Even to just have a couple of extra bottles on hand? Not me, anyway. Seems like only yesterday we were scraping together our dimes to buy Thunderbird) is heavy on heavy reds, so we are often off to the store to stock up on more light whites. We can't seem to get enough of Finger Lakes region Rieslings, Gerwurztraminer from anywhere, and white Riojas for making white Sangria.

From Slate, a nice quick article with some other ideas for summer wines. And no need to be embarrassed.

7.26.2005

Eat locally, think yummy

My librarian skilz failed me. There is a great great great article in this month's Gourmet, Bill McKibben writing about eating food only from his watershed for an entire year. The man lives in Vermont. Not some pansy southern Cal location. Vermont. It is well written and definitely inspiring. I wanted to find an electronic link so you could be inspired, too, but I can't. So you could go to your local library and read it, or something equally lame. It is worth it, and you might discover some other fun things about your local library. Like that they have a million cookbooks you can check out for free. Probably a real librarian could've found the electronic link. I'm only a fake librarian.

On the heels of that inspiring article, I read about the Eat Local Challenge going on for the month of August. For those of us not organized enough for a year of watershed eating, draw a 100 mile radius around yourself, and do the best you can for a month. And August has got to be the easiest month, especially for us New Englanders.

I am definitely inspired to try to do my best this year. I always do, but I'll throw a little more thought into the few mass produced products I buy, such as the bread from my local bakery - just where is that wheat coming from, Ollie? And eating out is going to take a hit (not an entirely bad thing).

I'm up for a more concerted, organized, seacoast-wide sort of thing next year. Get the local food writers on board, the farmer's market association, maybe some chefs will do some special dinners (we have those kind of enthusiastic chefs around here and that's half the fun of their food), get some nice fun maps made up and start researching all that is local.

So to sum up this rambling unfocused post - I am taking the Eat Local Challenge this August, and I hope you consider some level of involvement, too. Maybe by next August we can get as organized as the Locavores of San Francisco and really have a grand old time. Make it a national local thing. Or something.

ps. I didn't really talk about why all this is important. So look here if you need a clue.

7.18.2005

El Mexicano, Jr.

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Heaven... I'm in heaven,
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak.
And I seem to find the happiness I seek,
When we're out together, eating really great cheap and authentic Mexican food.


My friend Amy and her sister Sara helped me out in a big way today - I needed to drive our old car to Manchester, about an hour away, to the Good News Garage so that we could donate it. And then I needed a ride home - another hour. In the meantime, the chowhounds have been talking this place up, and what do you know, it's two minutes from the Good News Garage. Despite my feeling that I owed them lunch, Sara insisted on paying. And I didn't fight her too hard about it. To be honest, I was so excited about the menu, I was totally distracted.

So it's this little 5 booth place, with the little kids of the owners running around. There's a bulletin board behind the counter, but the counter guy helped us out with an even more extensive printed menu in both english and spanish, after my twentieth question, "What is ____?" Which he helpfully explained, in great english. They have sodas, beers, mexican sodas and mexican beers. And everything is as cheap as we've come to expect from authentic mexican joints like this.

The list of things I want to try is a mile long and includes a lot of things I have never in my life tried: Pata de Puerco (pig's feet), menudo, buche taco (pig's stomache taco), cabeza de rez taco (beef head), milanesa con papas (steak covered with bread and fries) and so on. And so on. Besides these, there are lots of foods I've eaten before but can't wait to try their version: mole, chilaquiles (hurrah! chilaquiles for breakfast!), chile verde, carnitas, posole, and so on. I ate there three hours ago and I cannot wait to go back.

Enough with what I didn't have - here's what I did have:

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We were brought some chips and salsa right away, and this salsa in damn good. The flavor made me think it has some dried chiles in it, just really good. I could've taken it hotter, but this is forgivable. And the chips are so homemade.

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The deshebrada combination plate. $6.99 for shredded beef seasoned with tomatoes, onions, and peppers, beans and rice, some shredded lettuce with a little cheese on top, and some really stinkin awesome corn tortillas. This was amazingly simple and delicious, with flavors that are spot on. Amy asked the valid question of how it compared to my holy grail of Las Brasas, the place B and I ate virtually all our meals at in San Diego. I said it was pretty comparable, and it was. Las Brasas was slightly better overall because the flavors were fuller, and the beans at Las Brasas were way better. But seeing as how we are in NH, this is amazing.

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I also ordered a chorizo taco for $1.29, and I'm going to have a hard time not ordering a dozen the next time we go (tomorrow?). It was perfect. Two corn tortillas, fried together, brilliant! The quality of the chorizo, top notch and cooked to a nice crispy crumbliness. The cilantro, the salsa, just really really well put together.

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Amy had the chicken burrito; Sara had the quesadilla. Both really enjoyed theirs. If I hadn't been so distracted by my love for my own food, especially that chorizo taco, I would have been more on the ball about getting tastes.

Vive El Mexicano Jr. Restaurant!

197 Wilson St
Manchester, NH
Sunday - Thursday 10am - 10pm
Friday & Saturday 10am - 1am

7.17.2005

Sorbetiere!
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A $20 check-out line impulse buy at Big Lots, and we are now the proud owners of a Rival electric ice cream maker. Once we were the proud owners of a Rival blender, purchased in similar fashion at Walgreen's. So I know this thing isn't going to last. My eyes are wide open this time. But for some hot fun in the summertime, it's perfect. And as Amy pointed out, we can see if we're actually going to use it before investing in a good one.





We busted open the packaging in the parking lot so we could shop for ingredients before heading home - raspberry sherbet. We bought frozen raspberries, though they are in high season here, because of some seriously flawed thinking. We thought we could speed up the process, despite the totally unfrozen freezer gel disc thingie. Unfortunately, frozen raspberries are not easy to push through a sieve. But lesson learned. 10 oz raspberries, 1 cup cream, lots of sugar and some lemon juice. We couldn't make it right away (duh), so we ended up putting most of the contraption in the freezer. It was delicious, a definate do-over.



Butter pecan ice cream was my first test recipe for The Good Home Cookbook(my next two assignments are home-made mayo, ok, and catalina dressing, bleck! two cups of it!). It came out well, and was fairly simple. If I were making it again for myself, I would candy the pecans before adding them. Heighten their flavor, create some nice crunch, break up that homemade ice cream too creamy mouthfeel. Again, a bit of putting the whole contraption in the freezer, but much less of that. There's a lot of down time to ice cream making, so although from start to eating ice cream was about 2 hours, only 30 minutes of that involved doing anything. Easy peasy.

7.12.2005

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I have yet another gross food love to confess, although to many of you this is no secret: I love Slush Puppies. With lots and lots of extra syrup. So that they are so acidic-ly sweet you can feel your teeth dissolve. And the color starts to become a purpley brown.

Problem is, you just don't see the ones where you get to add your own syrup (and thus surreptitiously add 8 extra squirts) around here much anymore. They're all premixed at gas stations, or Slurpees at 7-11 (not the same at all. Don't even go there.) It had been many a year since I was able to indulge in this unique treat, so long ago Ace and I were just the other day reminiscing. I was complaining about the lack of Slush Puppies on the Seacoast and he was again making fun of my Slush Puppie eating style. Good times.

So when I saw those magic words, and spotted the magic bottles, at yet another failed attempt to eat at the Surfside Hot Dog Shoppe (another story for another day), I knew I'd be back in a flash - it seemed like fate.

Today was that day. Today I saw the open sign, and went for it. This was a big risk - the machine and syrups are inside the place, the customers are outside looking in through window screening. There was no way I could surreptitiously add 8 extra squirts.

I went for it anyway, so strong was my desire for a Slush Puppie. "What flavor?" the twit asked. "Blue and green mixed," I answered. The twit didn't bat an eyelash. Maybe that was because she wasn't paying any attention to me, engaged in full conversation with two other co-workers. But in a minute one of these said co-workers handed me my Slushie, and I knew I was in.

Just from the color I could tell they gave me full strength of each flavor. That's double the amount of flavor syrup it should have. It was glowing. And the taste? Just as good as I remember.


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Damn it feels great to be nostalgic about something, be able to recreate that thing, and have it be as good as you remember.

Surfside Hot Dog Shoppe, I am still confused about your open v closed-ness, and when you cook hotdogs v only having ice cream. But from now on, whenever I drive by (which is really often, this is actually the closest business to my house, only 2 minutes), or bike by, or walk by, I will be hardpressed not to stop and get a double, or maybe a triple-flavored Slush Puppie.

Good times.

7.11.2005

Pickle-palooza

I thought I didn't like pickles. Then my sis and I went to the East Coast Grill in Cambridge. On the way there she mostly talked about the pickles. So when they plopped a little dish down, we went at it.

Now I know I love pickles. Just not any found in grocery stores.

quickpickles
When sis and I discovered that the recipe for the revelation pickles is to be found in the little (and inexpensive) Quick Pickles: Easy Recipes with Big Flavor, by none other than Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby, and Dan George, we promptly checked it out from the library. (I really might aquire this one-which is saying a whole lot.)(In fact, I might be forced to buy it, because I've used the one from the library so often the pages and the spine have become more than a bit separated.)

This book is chock-full o' interesting and varied pickled what-have-you recipes, and the vast majority are refrigerator pickles. You make 'em, stick 'em in the fridge for a bit, then eat 'em. Key absent word: canning. There are some fun fermented recipes in the back, but I haven't attempted any of those (yet).

For the 4th of July menu - lots and lots of pickled things, and meat. Pickles and different sausages go particularly well together, I think.

So did the friends we had over. Fun people interested in food and not minding that I hadn't pre-tested any of these recipes, including the ones I just totally made up, except the Back Eddy East Coast Grill ones.

IMGP3659The Award for Overall Best Eating Pickle goes to:

Back Eddy Pickles (on right), made with cucumbers, carrots, and culiflower, and pretty much following the Quick Pickles recipe. They are sweet, crunchy, have a distinct allspice-y effect to them. Perfect general pickle for most cook-out occasions.

Award for pickle most likely to please non-pickle eaters (so basically pickle least resembling pickles in flavor) and best eaten on or with other foods:

El Salvadorean Pineapple-Pickled Cabbage (on left and also below). The recipe (from Quick Pickles, here-to-fore known as QuickPick), calls for green cabbage but I love the red because it is brilliantly purple. I left out the carrot the recipe called for, so it is basically cabbage, red onion, fresh pineapple, garlic and hot pepper, pineapple juice, and white vinegar. I can definitely see this pickle on fish tacos.

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IMGP3635 Most interesting use of ingredients, most unique pickle, and 2nd runner up in prettiest pickle catagory:

Citrus-pickled Turnip Wafers with Gin and Juniper Berries (back right). I loved these pickles. Others who either didn't love citrus or didn't love gin appreciated them, but didn't love them. There isn't a lot of gin, but it rounds out the flavor. These turnips are young spring ones from the farm market. I love baby turnips. LOVE THEM. (Recipe also from QuickPick.)

Prettiest: The pickled radishes on the left. Let's get a glamour close-up, shall we?

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Aren't those babies beautiful? This is a totally made up recipe, and I think I did a great job considering my lack of pickling experience. I don't really remember the details, though. B sliced them fine (mad props to B for all the slicing and dicing for pickle-palooza. If only we had the OXO Good Grips Mandoline, (about $50, Santa)), we salted them, rinsed them (common pickling technique), ingredients included mirin, rice vinegar, and mebbe some wine vinegar. Some white sugar. They really mellowed, but retained their crunch and just a bit of their heat. Everyone loves radishes when they're pickled! And the color is all them. They just leached out their pink. Almost glow in the dark brilliance.


IMGP3608Least yummy but still maintaining potential for serious recipe tweaking:

Crunchy Orange-Pickled Red Onions with Chipotles and Tequila. Also green apples. From QuickPicks. Just way too much chipotle. Until I reread the recipe right now to post, I forgot all about the orange.





IMGP3664Best Dessert Pickles & Easiest Pickle to Make:

Balsamic-Pickles Peaches.

White balsamic vinegar, sweet vermouth, pineapple juice, and peaches. Yum yum yum.






IMGP3594Pickle without a recipe with most potential for improvement:

Remember those most improved awards from athletic or school kind of things? Doesn't that inherently imply that you sucked before? Well, this pickles don't suck, but my lack of pickle making therefore recipe inventing experience is very evident here. They are garlic scapes, and very mellow, not very garlickly. Adorable curling around the jar. I think I have a good base of the right vinegars, but am going to be working on the flavors. Or the lack thereof.


One last pic:

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all the vinegar from the start of pickle-palooza.

All in all, it was a tremendous success and delicious. I love learning about cooking techniques and types of foods unfamiliar to me. Good thing most of the pickles last weeks, if not months, in the fridge, 'cuz we're going to be eating them for a while yet!

7.10.2005

Space Meat

ya know, kind of like space ice cream.

Edible meat grown in labs. For human consumption.

And we thought genetically modified tomatoes were scary . . .

My favorite quote:
"The challenge is getting the texture right," says Matheny. "We have to figure out how to 'exercise' the muscle cells. For the right texture, you have to stretch the tissue, like a live animal would."
New Harvest is the non-profit that is hoping this will solve world hunger. I love the pic of rolling fields of grain.

Sketch-o-rama.

7.09.2005

First Favas . . .

Over at a different farm (Meadow's Mirth, out of Kensington), we got a little too anxious with the favas and picked a couple small to test them out. Although they were insanely delicious, we need to just sit on our hands and wait for them to grow.


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grow favas! grow!

7.08.2005

New Food Review: Wolfgang Puck's Gourmet French Vanilla Latte in the New Self Heating Can!

Addendum: Over at MAKE, they tore one of these apart - see fun pics are read about science-y stuff and their ideas for hacks of the self heating can. Most fun trivia: R&D on the can took 7 years and $24 million.

Because we never learn our lessons, even the hard way, B and I are suckers for new foods. I probably could have passed this one by, but since it was a food that also included a gizmo, and involved really complicated instructions for opening, B stuck it in the cart.

I'll give you the taste review first, further on is the play by play in pics:

(intone cheezy announcer voice)
If you like Starbuck's Frappuccino Coffee Drinks, but wish they were luke warm, you'll LOVE Wolfgang Puck's self heated latte thingies.

They taste pretty much exactly the same. Which is to say, not very good. Unless you like sugary milk with a shot of coffee syrup. In which case you'll love this.

And with a price tag of $2.99 for 10 oz, I won't be purchasing another one ever. Not even for novelty value while phony camping.

Over at Wolfgang Puck's site, a movie about how it works! (140F my butt.)

Here is B reading the really long and complicated instructions
(steps 1 through 3 are handily written upside down on the can.)


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Here B is activating the chemical reaction:

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The spot on the can turns from pink to white when it is hot.

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Here B is reading all the warnings, which take up a full 1" column down the entire side of the can, and include such mysteries as "Consume beverage from container. DO NOT POUR OUT." As well as the standard and expected, "IN CASE OF ACCIDENTAL CONTACT FLUSH WITH WATER FOR 15 MINTUES" (capitalization theirs, not mine."

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The spot is white! Time to face the music.

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Here B is reacting to his first sip. That is his expression bemused disgust.


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7.06.2005

Die folkie, die!

So there's been a couple questions about my posting name change. Basically, it's all me, the same person. folkie was an alternate persona from when I was first setting up a blogger account for my work blog and needed to do some experimentation with multiple users, etc. So I have finally straightened that out, and I am plentyo'moxie all over the web. (meant to conjure up both meanings of the word)

ps. moxiefest is this weekend! moxie ice cream! moxie chugging contests! small town fun galore!
To meme, or not to meme . . .

That is the question.

I kill chain mail. On purpose. I go out of my way to stop the crappy forwarding of nonsense. I even threatened to sue my dad when he was forwarding so many stupid email chain jokes. I got a cease and desist order. So when Food Migration tagged me a couple days ago, I said, as my father would say, "Thanks a rot, Cindy."

But here I am. Seems unsporting not to play. And there is a bit of flattery in being tagged. Also, somebody's been bugging me for a mission statement like thing, maybe I can get away with this instead. So:

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?


Actually, with my sister. We were alone for hours, and hungry. We somehow made these little blueberry cheesecake like things. Very small, totally improvised. Now I am proud of this age 10ish adventure. At the time, we got in trouble when mom got home - for potentially wasting food (we didn't, they came out great), and for using the oven unsupervised.

Who had the most influence on your cooking?


My cooking really comes out of a desire to eat well. My desire to eat well was a direct product of going out to dinner with a wealthy family to the L'Hostellerie Bressane in Hillsdale, NY. I think that the restaurant is now closed, but at the time I was about 14, and had never been anywhere fancy at all. The family was grateful to me because I bullied the kids who bullied their son, I was grateful to them for introducing me to a world of food I hadn't known existed. I always loved to eat, but I didn't know there was much beyond well-done meat and potatoes lavished in mayo or butter, with some white-trash mexican thrown in. My mother made me a jumper for the occasion, it was a white on white flower pattern. I was horrified to find I matched the tablecloths and linens, and spent the meal obsessing and worrying everyone would notice. The menu was in French, I naively ordered sweetbreads, and they let me. And I loved the sweetbreads. I loved the food, even more I loved being around people who ate for hours, talking about the food, talking about other great meals while eating a great meal. It was a revelation.

Do you have an old photo as 'evidence' of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it?


No.

Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?


I get nervous with fish, more because of not cooking it enough to be totally comfortable than anything else.

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest let down?


I love my knives, two Henckles Pros. I also adore the pineapple corer, which B got in his work Yankee Swap. The veggie shredder attachment to the Kitchen Aide was the biggest let down. Too much work for the end result.

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like - and probably no one else!


Man, my family is going to be embarrassed by this. I love liverwurst, cream cheese, and peanut butter - together, on white bread. Granma took care of me when I was little, and every day would give me Ritz crackers with one of the above. Pretty soon I had convinced her to give me a variety pack. Then I would scrape the topping together. In all honesty, I haven't had this in years. Besides the fat factor, I don't often have all three in the house at one time. But now that I'm thinking about it, a trip to the grocery store sounds good . . .

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don't want to live without?


Chicken tikka masala & nan; real heirloom tomatoes in August, warm from the sun, with a little good salt; garlic

(this was the hardest one! the list could go on! oysters! polenta! grits! cheeses (all of them)! really great hamburgers! did I say oysters?)

Any question you missed in this meme, that you would have loved to answer? Well then, feel free to add one!



Your favorite ice-cream...

mint oreo (or rainbow sherbet)

You will probably never eat...

I will never try uni again. Enough said about that experience.

Your own signature dish...

I say its my gumbo, which is mind-blowingly good, and which I learned to make in New Orleans. While many people agree with me, my deviled eggs get me invites. I once pulled up to a barbecue to have two people run up to meet my car, at which time they demanded I hand over the eggs (through the car window), and then they kind of left me there.

A common ingredient you just can't bring yourself to stomach...

I am working hard on learning to love olives. I have achieved tolerance. And like of very good black olives. I don't like bell peppers, though I can stomach them. I am also working hard on pickles. I learned in the past month that I love homemade pickles. A la Jeffrey Steingarten, I really want to like everything.

Which one culture's food would you most like to sample on its home turf?

Mexican. No doubts, no debates, hands-down.

The people I am tagging are:

I thought long and hard about this. I just can't. I can't keep the chain going. If anyone is out there, wishing and hoping and praying to be tagged, please email me. Or tag yourself or something. Otherwise, I'm sorry.

7.04.2005

Downhill Alert: Hap's Roast Beef, Rte 1 Portsmouth

Having lived just north of Boston for a while, I was trained into conosourship of roast beef, specifically Super Beefs. So after some searching, I was happy to find Hap's, especially due to its very good sides. Specifically, their caesar salad. Perfectly dressed, with good cheese, great croutons, and sublime proportions, without being overly fussy or fancy pants.

Now there is an "under new management" sign out front and our recent experience with said new management was a disaster. The Super Beefs were ok. Over sauced, but that's forgivable. Not at all rare roast beef, but it happens (though it never happened before). A couple favorites taken off the menu altogether, nothing redeeming added on. Unforgivable, though, was the caesar salad.

"Is that a cucumber?" I yelled at B as I looked over his shoulder through the lid of the plastic take out container. Yes indeed, accompanied by tomatoes and onions (lots and lots of red onions). Nary a strand of parmesan to be found. The dressing came in a packet - crappy Ken's, not creamy white but creamy brown. I am ok with non creamy caesar. But if it is creamy, it should be white. And the most disgusting croutons ever. This was as much a caesar salad as I am a circus acrobat. That is, we'd both like to be something we can't even pretend to be.

Sigh. It is very sad to lose a quick and close take-out place. It's like breaking up with a friend. You remember why you were friends, you have that history. But so much has changed between you. You're different people. It doesn't make it any easier. I know we'll give it another try. Like calling up that friend and meeting for coffee, just dragging the whole thing out. It'd be better just to never call her again, pretend you never got her messages, but there's the guilt. There's also the hope the relationship can be saved. Sigh.