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Researching the foods of Africa in an effort to learn more about this recently maligned continent, I found so many things that sounded delicious. Too many. One day, I googled “African snacks” curious to see what came up for any of the 54 countries. I immediately perked up at the results which were far better than I had hoped. A litany of amazing things – meat pies, fritters, meat on sticks, and fried dough in all kinds of shapes and sizes and glazes. Among these were a few things with really great names that caught my attention immediately … chin chin, puff puffs and fat cakes. What?!? How much fun do these sound?!? I want to eat them all. Obviously I started with puff puffs. How could I not?

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Late last week I watched the news in utter disbelief and horror. Yet again. Yet again, our President showed us who he is: ignorant, entitled, unintelligent and above all, yes, a racist. I won’t belabor the point on his utter incompetency too much because it is on full display every day but his comments about immigrants from “shithole countries” really struck a nerve. I am descended from immigrants. Chances are extremely high that you are too or maybe you’ve immigrated to this country. The President himself is descended from immigrants and at one point or another, those countries from which our relatives came, from which we hold vast amounts of pride, were probably considered shitholes too. No doubt about that. All four sets of my great grandparents came from Poland and Czechoslovakia during the Slavic migration and just like now, they faced discrimination from the wave of immigrants that came before them. Getting here first doesn’t make anyone more entitled or a better person. Argh, it makes me so angry.

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Try as I might to resist, I’m getting twitchy for pumpkin. The amount of pumpkin/pumpkin spice products in the grocery stores is obnoxious and some things just have no business living in the pumpkin spice realm – check this list out. While I roll my eyes at the vast majority, there are a few things that I do love. The original, OG pumpkin spice donuts from my youth (still working on recreating those). My pumpkin bundt cake. A slice of a good pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. They’re delicious and invoke feelings of nostalgia in a way that pumpkin spice Cheerios or Oreos do not. Inevitably, as I pass the cans of pumpkin puree on the grocery display, one will go in my cart. Maybe two. Which is exactly what happened last week.

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I love an old school, red sauce Italian joint. The menu is full old favorites: lasagne, stuffed shells, meatballs, ravioli and various things given the parmesan treatment – veal, chicken, eggplant. The fanciest thing on the menu, and probably the last update, is penne alla vodka. Salads are usually of the iceberg variety composed of crunchy lettuce with meats, cheeses and pickled pepper things served with an Italian dressing, tangy from red wine vinegar. If you’re fortunate, you’ll find my beloved 5-Finger Cavatelli on the menu too. And your meal always comes with garlic bread. Always.

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I’ve long been charmed by beer bread recipes. Mix a few ingredients with a can of beer and pop it in the oven for a quick, delicious loaf. It’s usually the first bread most people learn to make; a few ingredients, one bowl, super easy. The problem is, they rarely deliver on the delicious promise. There’s a particular mix that I’ve seen touted again and again and it’s just not good. There’s a weird chemical flavor that permeates each bite and I do not have time for that. Beer bread should be relatively easy to make, why not make one that tastes good? So I did. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I have a Guinness beer bread today, one made with whole grains and yes, some dark, delicious beer.

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For reasons that I can’t quite explain, when I’m unhappy or depressed or feeling glum, I make biscuits. I don’t come from a biscuit culture, growing up Polish in Arizona. As a kid, biscuits came from a tube and toast was the only choice for your breakfast. My other comfort foods are pierogies and Mexican food, which make sense, but also matzo ball soup which is curious I suppose. Over the years I’ve sort of appropriated the foods that are delicious and comforting, like a warm hug, regardless of their origins. Making biscuits is a task that I enjoy; forming the dough, rolling and folding much like a traditional French pastry, and baking them to a nice and golden crunch. While they’re still warm from the oven, I’ll sit down with a biscuit or two and peel off the layers, one by one, popping them into my mouth. I may do this a few times before I feel better.

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I’m drowning in dates right now and not the good kind of dates a girl would like to be drowning in. Actual dates. Dried fruits. With pits. To start, there was nearly a pound sitting on my kitchen table, leftover from a project I finished just before the holidays. Before I’d even had a chance to register their presence, I got the email from my friend Michele that appears in my inbox every January. “Hi. Got the dates. Want them?” You see, every year her financial advisor sends her, and her mother, a tin of dates from California as a holiday present. She does not know why dates. Neither she, nor her mother, like dates. However she, and her mother, do not want to hurt the guy’s feelings so they don’t tell him and every year, the dates arrive. And I get an email and a subsequent delivery of said dates. Two two-pound tins. Every year. It’s a lot of dates.

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