A New Year without Mom

My mom died this holiday season.  Don’t be sad for me, or her – she wanted to go.  She needed to go.  Alzheimer’s is not pretty and it’s better to be over sooner rather than later.

Mom never even LIKED eating -she always used to chide me “why can’t you eat to live, not live to eat!”  No one could figure out where my love of food and cooking came from.  Mom did love to snack, however, and Potato Sticks were frequently her lunch.  I also have MOSTLY warm and fuzzy memories of our “Friday Night Parties” where a now non-existent Kraft Dry Onion Dip mixed with milk would thicken up and we would snuggle into bed with it and a bag of Wise Potato Chips.  The MOSTLY comes from being kicked by either my brother or my mother because I was too fidgety.

Mom came into this world chewing on broken glass, and metaphorically at least, that’s how she left.  You see, when mom was a toddler/pre-schooler, grandmomma used to put her out in the yard to play and the neighborhood was relatively new with construction debris.  Both grandmomma and mom would recount stories of the broken glass snacks, grandmother “tsking” as she told them (she “tsked” at just about everything mom said/did), and mom laughingly would recount how she LIKED the taste/feel/look of the red, blue, and green glass bits she would find in the dirt and put in her mouth.  Mom’s favorite snack as a child besides the glass, was an already eaten, used up corn cob she took to bed suck on at naptime.  I suppose these are the pacifiers and fruit roll-ups of the depression era.

Mom also hated to cook.  She resented the daily grind of having to feed a family of 6.  Her only interest in food might be derived from something new and different, but because she didn’t care about food, she would not get the proper ingredients for the new recipe; she would simply substitute whatever UNreasonable facsimile we had in our fridge/pantry/freezer.  Think Velveeta for Parmigiano Reggiano.  Mom cursed like a sailor and when, in our prepubescent growth spurt years we would dare to hungrily ask “what’s for dinner?” her response would be “SH*T”.  Yes, I get my mouth from my mother.

Mom didn’t like meat (red or any other hue).  Daddy made a mean fried chicken and when he made it for dinner she would peel off her skin and hold it up for auction.  Then she would pick at the protein and make disgusting sounds and expressions.  She liked fish though, and we frequently had the fish that daddy caught fried for dinner, and then again for breakfast.  This is not uncommon down south – fish for breakfast.  I still love it for breakfast.

Mom also liked shellfish, along with beans and vegetables.  She was an expert crabber, growing up in Tidewater, and NOBODY could pick a blue crab cleaner than mom.  This, another residual depression skill.  Waste nothing.  Wash your aluminum foil, and rewash it again for yet a 3rd time until it falls apart.

Mom naturally found herself on a macrobiotic diet at about 50 and dropped tons of weight (she was never huge but from about 50 to 80 she was a size 4).  This healthy diet was supplemented by a daily room temperature Tab she carried around with her everywhere she went to her various meetings and charity functions.  Tab also adorned the piano where she taught lessons for 50 or so years.  She NEVER drank water and I’m positive this contributed to her dementia in a significant way.   She loved Daddy’s wine though, and in her recent last years, we discovered that she had come to think of the nectar of the fig and grape as excellent sources of nutrition, which she called her “juice”.

Who doesn’t like ice cream?  Mom.  Mom could not stand dairy in any form but cheese.  She did love and partake of a Virginia family breakfast tradition at Christmas time, though –  in the form of Oyster Stew, which contains milk.  This we were required to ingest every Christmas morning as far back as I can remember.  No one really liked it but her and my grandfather.  I’ve never been a fan of oysters, but the broth I found palatable.  This, of course, was served with Oyster Crackers.  Oyster crackers that would not get eaten in their entirety and so, were relegated to the pantry for next year’s feast.  One sunny Christmas morning, we all sat down to the formally set table – china, silver, crystal – and our Oyster Stew.  Each of us passed the basket of crackers around and dumped them into our bowls, and one by one, we all looked closer and closer at what seemed to be pepper rising to the top.  Then, the pepper began to writhe with life.  Our curiosity turned to horror as one by one we pushed back our chairs, screeched, and RAN…as daddy’s face turned to ashen grey as it is wont to do when things don’t go right, and granddaddy chuckled and said “it’s just weevils.  They don’t eat much.”  The lesson of don’t save crackers for the next year’s feast was never learned.  We, ever after, had a pantry full of Tupperware.

Thanks mom for this partial trip down food-memory lane.  You’re a bird, you are.  I’m sure you’ve got a tight grip on that Tab and are demanding attention from whomever is lucky enough to be in your path.  I am grateful there is no more broken glass for you.


A Note From Chef Lori


Lula’s is excited to be a part of the Women’s Initiative Annual Breakfast Planning Committee and I’m hoping you will be able to attend on January 24, 2018.  Held at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center from 7 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., we typically have over 700 women and men in attendance. Our keynote speaker  is Dr. Debra Clary, who works with leaders who want to improve their impact and contribution to their organization.  She is a student and teacher of narrative leadership (storytelling), resilience, transformation and change.  She draws on her corporate experiences, academic research and her standup comic training to inspire others striving to live with purpose. Don’t delay – make your reservation today before it sells out! To register and for more information: www.NKYChamber.com/WIAnnualBreakfast   

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Pumpkin Packs a Punch!

Pumpkin seeds are one smart snack. They’re rich in zinc, a mineral vital for memory and thinking skills. They’re also packed with magnesium, a mineral that fights inflammation and contributes to the creation of new brain cells.

In addition, pumpkin seeds contain a hefty amount of tryptophan, an amino acid that the body converts to the good-mood chemical serotonin. As if that’s not enough, pumpkin seeds contain a wide variety of antioxidants that may slow brain aging.  At Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering , we  toast our pumpkin seeds and use them in many salads as well as garnish entrees for a satisfying crunch!  This picture is of our Citrus Avocado Salad.  Now, drool!

Wrinkles Save Your Mind!

Raisins are among the top food sources of boron, a brain-boosting mineral. “Among its other benefits, boron improves mental alertness, short-term memory and focus, and even affects eye-hand coordination and dexterity,” says Forrest Nielsen, retired research nutritionist at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota. You probably won’t learn to juggle four balls at once just by eating a handful of raisins, but this fruit (and a lot of practice) will set you on the right path.  If you like raisins, Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering can put them in any dish you want!!

Other foods rich in boron: chickpeas, almonds, walnuts, avocados.

Scent and Memory – a Powerful Combination!

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash

As you smell a fresh pine tree, cookies baking, bayberry or orange, do flashes of past Christmas holidays come flooding through your mind?  This very aromatic season is an easy way to describe the phenomenon of scent and memory.

The process of smelling is a thing of beauty.  Smell is a chemical sense detected by sensory cells called chemoreceptors in the nose that detect smell and pass on electrical impulses to the brain.  The brain then interprets patterns in electrical activity as specific odors and olfactory sensation becomes perception – we recognize this as smell.  The only other chemical system that can quickly identify, make sense of and memorize new molecules is the immune system (Sarah Dowdy, How Stuff Works).

Gratefully reprinted with permission from my good friend Pat Faust, Gerontologist – and her blog “My Boomer Brain”

Egg White Volume

Afraid of meringues?  Souffles?  EASY trick!  First, make sure NO yolk gets into your separation.  Second, your “whisking bowl” and your beater can have NO residue of any sort in or on it.  Third, your whites should be room temperature, not cold.  This will almost double your volume!!

The Mysterious Pomegranate

Orange Zested Creme Patisserie w. Pomegranate and Amaretti

Asian in origin, the pomegranate is considered special for 3 general reasons: 1) They are available only in fall/early winter & their elusivity gives them exclusivity! 2) Virtually all of the pomegranates sold in the United States are grown in one valley in California. 3) They are heavy in anti-oxidants and are packed full of medicinal qualities — from easing stomach aches to shrinking tumours.

Folks tend to shy away from working with pomegranates because they are not the easiest food to work with, plus, they stain just as badly as beets — so wear gloves or be particularly neat!!

Here’s an easy way to get the arils (seeds) out of the pomegranate:  Fill a medium-large bowl with cold water. Cut the crown end of the pomegranate off (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you hold one). Slice down the sides lengthwise from the missing crown — just scoring the flesh. You can then pull apart the fruit in sections and drop them into the water. Then sort of love-up on the sections with your hands gently rolling and squeezing. The arils will break away and drift to the bottom, and the white membrane will float to the top.

Sprinkle the seeds (about ½-3/4 cup per fruit) on salads, or juice them for about ½ cup of juice. You can reduce the juice to a syrup along with some balsamic vinegar for a wonderful glaze for chicken or pork. Because they’re red, they’re naturally a great fit at holiday time. Or, just drink the juice for those fabulous health benefits! Try Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering ‘s Sweet Potato Pops w/Pomegranate when it’s in season — they’re YUMMY! 

A Note From Chef Lori

Our kitchen will be closed from December 22 thru January 5 in order to visit family all over the eastern seaboard! We look forward to literally serving you 🙂 in the new year!

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Stone Crab Claws – the Perfect Tailgate Food!

Stone Crabs are in season from about October through April and are a RENEWABLE resource amongst shellfish.  We only eat the claws, and the claws regenerate – so no killing of crabs; everybody wins.  You can grill them over an open fire or steam them – you can use whatever cooking mechanism comes out of your trunk!  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering serves them with  a Tarragon Remoulade! A simpler version is simply 1/2 Dijon Mustard and 1/2 good mayonnaise.  You’ll need a small hammer, or a nutcracker works well, and a couple of picks or seafood forks for digging out the DELICIOUS, sweet meat.  Happy Tailgating!  – Lula

Thanksgiving Leftovers Tip

Folks I stumbled upon another brilliant way to get rid of stuffing (IF you have any leftover!!!)  I always have it left over because it’s probably my favorite part of the meal besides gravy, and I make double the amount of stuffing to the amount of anything else I make!!

Fry up some breakfast sausage while you’re nuking your stuffing. If you would prefer, Italian sausage works beautifully as well.  Sometimes Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering  puts Italian sausage in our stuffing if I’m in that sort of mood for Thanksgiving.   Lay the sausage on top of the hot stuffing and top it with a fried egg.  Kind of like eggs ‘n toast but richer and BETTER!!!!   This should be accompanied by a steaming hot cup of coffee and a glass of freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice.  Just sayin’.   Happy coma, Lula

Be Thankful for our Masala Dabba!

I bought a new vehicle this week. FINALLY, after 1.5 years of knowing exactly what I want and waiting for the right deal it presented itself. Now I can haul your goodies AND feel cushy at the same time! While waiting for the interminable dealer to finish their CRAP, I got hungry and walked down the road to McDonalds. No, I am not a fan but those who know me know that I can find SOMETHING on any menu to get excited about, from Frisch’s to Nobu. At McDonald’s it’s the Breakfast Burrito. When in a pinch, it always fuels me and all of the horrible stuff in it mushes up in my mouth into pure guilty deliciousness.
McDonalds was virtually empty at 10:45…a couple in a corner… a lady sipping coffee by herself.  I grabbed my burrito and water and for some reason, instead of finding the far corner of the room, I sat next to Ms. Coffee.  Perhaps I was fueled by morning Jazzercise or multivitamins or a mixture of both, but I was feeling friendly. I made some stupid comment to her as I slid into the chair and she smiled and responded. That started a 30 minute conversation about the world and all its charms.

I noticed an accent and asked her from whence she came…she answered the Bahamas. Excited to share with her my recent menu for the Jamaican Prime Minister and delegation, I mentioned my Callaloo and Curried Fish Stew, and she wrinkled up her nose and told me she didn’t care too much for greens, but we agreed that cod is a most versatile fish! She went on to talk about her husband’s job in Dubai and the food there, and his wish to have her come for Thanksgiving. That nose wrinkled up again and she said she just couldn’t miss our American tradition at home (the turkey isn’t very good and is horribly expensive in Dubai)..

We talked of experiences at her thanksgiving table and mine, and our heritages, and how we have been culinarily influenced by our friends as well as our own travels and experiences. We determined that macaroni and cheese is a much more common thanksgiving item up north than down south. I had never really thought about that before but it’s true! I’ll serve it at Easter but never Thanksgiving, for some reason. We talked of the spices in the Middle East and her delight at discovering the different curries (this an offshoot of my Jamaican Curry story), and I explained that curry doesn’t come in a jar over there – each household has its own recipe, contained in a spice bowl with many different tiny containers called Masala Dabba (masala meaning mixture, dabba meaning container – kind of like these United States!).

We then talked about North Africa and the very similar spice blends and flavors there akin to the Middle East, which of course led me to brag about my latest invention, now on Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering’s menu in either appetizer or entree form: Merguez & Lentil Stew with Mint and Pistachio Pistou – developed to pair with, off all things, a bourbon cocktail from Mixmaster Extraordinaire Robin Carnes of George Remus Distillery, at the Edible Drinks event last weekend (both the stew and the cocktail contained Ras el Hanout – a Moroccan spice blend).I’m very proud of this one – it’s very complex!  I make the Merguez myself.

Somehow this led to a discussion about migrant workers, both there and here, as well as human trafficking and contemporary slavery. A fascinating conversation, and I am richer for it. I so wish I had gotten her name to at least friend her (my, how contemporary vernacular has changed!)  I believe we could have become good friends.

Ms. Coffee, wherever you are (and I know it’s not Dubai!), thank you for helping me be more thankful this season, and more in touch with all there is for which to be grateful. I hope to meet someone like you again very soon. I guess all it takes is a simple hello.


A Note From Chef Lori

Can you BELIEVE ’tis almost the season?!?Think about your holiday party NOW…we’re excited to party with you but Lula only has two hands!!

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In Lula's Kitchen, Love is ALWAYS our First Ingredient!