It seems sort of obscene to be talking about luxuries in this day and age. Money is so tight that I use half sheets in the dryer, preferring to dry on the clothesline if weather permits. I plan weekly meals so I buy as little as possible and haven’t bought new underwear in a dog’s age. (I just realized the other day that one of the dresses I wear to work was the very same dress I wore when I was pregnant!) I can only IMAGINE the financial hit next year with college bills in our mailbox.
Still, I manage to sneak in a few little luxuries that make the scrimping and saving bearable. Not luxuries like caviar and white truffles, or eating out at the CIA, or buying a new wardrobe every season, but more reasonable splurges that just make me smile. I wanted to share them with you.
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Kessman Farms Jam
Hands down the best jam I ever tasted, except for the jam my mother-in-law made one year when she got fresh peaches. This jam, made by Kessman Farms in Pawling, NY, runs $6 – 8 per jar, but is well worth the splurge. It is FULL of fruit, not too thick, not too runny, and has a summer flavor so sweet that you weep to eat it in winter. Our favorite varieties are peach, apricot, strawberry, seedless red raspberry (shown) and the venerable Triple Crown (strawberry, raspberry and cherry all together in one ridiculously delicious jam). A thick slice of fresh oat toast, a smear of salted butter and a generous helping of jam. What is more seductive than that?
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My girlfriend Cat will probably agree with me when I say that Irish Mist is yummy. She’s an Irish lass and has actually been to Ireland, and I am only partially of Irish descent and have never been. However, this liqueur sings to the Irish blood in my veins in a way that reels and harps don’t. OK, that was a really lame statement. It doesn’t sing to anything in my blood – it simply tastes good and makes me glad to claim Irish ancestry. It’s herby and sweet and scotchy and did I mention that it tastes good? A bottle sets me back $35, but it feels worth it somehow.
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Goat Curry at the West Indies Cafe
Three times I have had the opportunity to go to a little place on Main Street on the way to the Poughkeepsie train station. It’s called the West Indies Cafe and it’s a humble little place with chipped, mismatched formica tables, plastic chairs and divine food. Their cooking is Jamaican/West Indian and includes curries, jerks and such humble dishes as oxtail and cow foot. Twice I have gotten the goat curry. It is humble, spicy, boney, full of long-cooked love and is oh-so-tender. There’s just enough fat to make it taste sublime with the spices and lean meat. You can get it with rice, greens, plantains, cabbage, mac and cheese or beans in a styrofoam container. It’s not expensive – less than $10 for a large portion, but it has such a wonderful, exotic flavor profile that I consider it a true splurge. It’s the kind of food I would cook if I knew how.
And now a shameless plug… Visit http://westindiesrestaurant.com/ for more information. You’ll be glad you did!
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I wish there was a market around here that sold halva like in this picture. Louise is going to Turkey in about a month and will have the opportunity to eat fresh halva in every variety. She will be able to taste cherry, pistachio, chocolate, almond; every variety under the sun. I envy that opportunity.
OK, I’ll back up. What is halva (or halvah)? It is a subtle, sweet “candy” made from sesame seeds and sugar. There are varieties in the Middle East and into India, but it’s all basically a slightly dry, crumbly sweet that could be classified as a candy, or maybe not. In American grocery stores, you might find a version of halva at the deli counter that has egg whites in it. RUN in the opposite direction! The best halva is an incredibly simple product, super tasty in its simplicity. It costs about $5 for a few ounces, but the occasional splurge is worth it. We get it a few times a year at Hannaford in Pawling (in the Asian food section) and start eating it as soon as we get in the car and get our seatbelts buckled. What a treat!
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Pampered Chef Stoneware
There are 6 pieces of PC stoneware in my house. One loaf pan, the rectangular baker in the photo, a large, flat rectangular baker for bar cookies, a small round, a large round, and a pizza stone. They were hideously expensive when I bought them years ago. Each piece is between 20 and 40 dollars. However, they are the BEST items to cook in if you want to make something with a crispy crust. The rounds are what I use to make crispy Gujarat cabbage, the loaf is the go-to meatloaf pan, the rectangular baker is my all-purpose pan (I use that more than any other). I make bar cookies in the baker (especially great for lemon bars) and pizza, calzones and stromboli all develop a magical crust on the pizza stone (as long as you heat it up in the oven for 30 minutes prior to baking). The cost of them is ridiculous. However, given the results and the lifetime guarantee, they are well worth it.
Speaking of Pampered Chef, if you’re in the market for a garlic press, get it from them. Best garlic press I ever bought or was given. Ever!
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So there are some luxuries that I allow myself. Please share yours if you feel so inclined.