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Food for Thought

There is so much going on around the world to talk about, unfortunately none of it is good news.

ISIS, Hamas, Syria, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, could the Middle East be any more of a mess? There is no reasoning with any radical Islamic group, or country, or both in the case of Syria. So there is really only one solution.

Elsewhere you have Russia versus Ukraine and North Korea versus anyone with sanity. The Ebola outbreak in Africa and whatever you do avoid flying Malaysian Airlines and Malaysia in general.

You and I both need a break from the problems of the world and here at home. So let’s talk about food. Why food? Well whenever I am stressed or unhappy nothing makes me smile like a good old-fashioned home cooked meal like roast, you pick the main course, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and you have to have corn. Many like pie, I prefer ice cream. But hot apple with a scoop of vanilla solves a potential dessert conflict.

A plate of spaghetti and meatballs, I prefer Italian sausage, bread and peppers and make sure there is good ground Parmesan. This will also turn that frown upside down. What about a salad? Forget about it. Oh okay, a nice green salad smothered in blue cheese dressing with extra blue cheese crumbles. Sure to make any rabbit run away. I feel better already. I know they call this comfort eating and I would look more like my son Jimmy if I wasn’t predisposed to this. It’s my Italian upbringing and heritage. No matter what the situation, it is all made better with some good food, conversation and a glass or two of vino.

This theory is also the Italian guide to when something good happens, celebrate with food, friends and a beverage. That’s why I love being Italian. Of course when celebrating winning the ball game or having a good day the food usually isn’t as fancy. Pizza is the most common choice. Weddings, graduations and so on bring out the best at the Italian table. There is also more adult beverages for a celebration and that makes for more conversation. You are not Italian if you can’t hold three or four conversations at the same time while enjoying the family get together.

My Pappy Maietta never had a drop of alcohol in his house and Mr. Webb wasn’t much of a drinker. So I hold at two drinks for bad or good. Not to mention I don’t want my name in the Sun Gazette for DUI.

I’ve gotten off track here. See the thought of good food and family work, I’ve forgotten about ISIS. Maybe if we send some good Italian chefs to the Middle East we can promote peace through pasta. Nah. It would just be a waste of some good food, their hatred of what good is in the world runs too deep.

Here at home the calendar feeds September, I mean reads September. There are some great seasonal dishes that fit the comfort food list but also can be healthy. How about some eggplant parm? Fresh eggplant, it doesn’t get any better. Some folks substitute zucchini for the eggplant. I wouldn’t turn either down and if you don’t mind some hot sausage on the side and a little extra grated Romano. I’ll skip the salad this time to save room for some more eggplant parm.

If you want to make homemade sauce now is the time, tomatoes are at their peak. Save a couple or three though – nothing is better than a tomato sandwich. My version is tomatoes sliced thick, mayo, provolone cheese, a few hot peppers and topped with potato chips. Sour cream and onion if you got them.

Did I say something earlier about eating healthy? Forget about it. If you don’t want a tomato sandwich, just slice them up and choose your weapon. Balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil, or a dab of mayo, salt, pepper, garlic, or my favorite, yep the blue cheese dressing topped with blue cheese crumbles. There is nothing like a good home grown tomato or one I get from Robin Tebbs and the girls. They are my garden away from home.

Back to the fruit and vegetables we are so blessed with this time of year. Stop at any local stand and purchase the freshness and taste of being grown right here in Penn’s Woods.

Marshalek’s have a special place in my heart. My father loved going for a ride and picking up cider and apples when he wasn’t well. Nothing says fall like a cold glass of cider and the crunch and sweetness of a good Apple. Apple pie, apple dumplings, apple crisp, applesauce, caramel apples. You can’t go wrong. Better top the pie and dumplings with a scoop of vanilla just to be safe. You may also sub peaches anywhere you see apple. Not my first choice but many like this. Any time you see butter it must be good. This is the case with the apple or peach butter. I think all cottage cheese should be served this way.

Watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew if you’re looking for sweetness none are better than those grown locally. And no I don’t add ice cream or anything unhealthy to these. Although my sons use salt on watermelon, learned that from their Pop Pop Webb. One of my favorites this time of year is cucumbers. Michelle makes a great cucumber, tomato, onion salad. Cut them up and add Italian dressing or balsamic vinegar or both. Salt, pepper, fresh garlic, season to taste. A wonderful side to any meal.

Cucumbers are great on sandwiches, salads and cut up and dipped in ranch dressing. In a Jam – Deb’s Home-Made, a local canner makes great dill, bread-and-butter and zesty pickles from locally grown cukes. The boys especially love her hot peppers. They are available at Tony’s, Tebbs and many local merchants.

My Nanny Webb used to make cuke salad with sour cream, sugar and onions. I haven’t tasted that since she passed. This is also true for her brown sugar pie, my favorite but only she made it taste that way. As I’ve stated in the past – write those recipes down and pass them on to the next generation.

Peaches, plums and grapes – they’re only here for a short time so don’t be late. Healthy by themselves, I won’t add anything to change this.

You can’t beat our locally grown sweet corn. Take advantage. A little real butter, salt and pepper or freeze it up for the winter. Nothing warms a cold winter’s day like a bowl of Nanna’s chicken corn chowder made with summer’s harvest. Tebbs, Styer’s, Berried Treasures or your favorite farm market you can’t go wrong!

Fresh onion and peppers – now is the time, cut them up, fry them and you have the perfect topping for a sausage sandwich, hamburger or cheesesteak. Use up some of that venison from last season, no matter the cut. Onion and pepper fried up in some olive oil with garlic and Worcestershire sauce make a great topping. Throw in some fresh mushrooms and wow. Well I’m going to stop here. Not because I’m out of ideas for fresh local produce but because I’m hungry.

If you have any great recipes to share send them in. Maybe they will show up in the pages of the paper or I’ll try them out at home.

Don’t let the world get you down. We are truly blessed, give thanks and enjoy that comfort at the family table or with a friend.

God Bless.

Jim Webb

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