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Unknown-10The season has begun. It happens this same time every year. People look forward to it. Businesses gear up for it. Celebrations are planned around it.

You can even dress up for this kick off. It seems like every where you turn people are getting into the spirit of this annual spectacle. Of course the sight, smell, and taste buds join in the chorus.

No, it’s NOT baseball. Nor is it March Madness. Churches get involved but it is not a religious holiday.

It is crawfish season! Yes, MUDBUGS. You can do it yourself if you have a pot big enough for these morsels. Helpings are measured by the pound.

Make no mistake about it. This is not fine dining. You can’t worry about the splatter or the residual that is leftover. A serving of crawfish is as much about the experience of eating. It takes some effort to enjoy this meal.

Some of my West Coast friends shake their head as a refusal to choose this cuisine. TheirUnknown-11 brief curt rejection is punctuated, “Too much work!” It takes some effort but if you are enjoying the company of good friends and the conversation is extraordinary, then this is the perfect meal to enhance the talking around the table.

Just do it outside. It is an expressive kind of dining. Spilling, splattering, popping pieces around the area is a part of it. Make that a part of the sharing. Lay out a drop cloth on a picnic table and dump the entire pot of mudbugs, corn on the cob, red potatoes, and garlic sauce on top of it.

Pull up a chair. Tuck in a napkin in your neck. Laugh, tease, tell stories, and love on your family and friends. This kind of crawfish feast will be the memories that makes life worth reliving.

God likes it when we seal the deal with each other by breaking bread. In this case it is cracking shells. But, the satisfaction on every level is at its very best. Try 2 pounds and soon you’ll be up to 3 and loving everyone and every bite.

photos by brucefong photography



Lion 2019
Chinese New Year has arrived! After a yearlong wait, it is time to celebrate. Take it from generations of those learning how to celebrate, the Chinese are going to whoop it up not just for a day. They don’t celebrate for two days. When the Lunar calendar hits the reset button, it is time to party-on for 3-4 weeks.

Companies in Asian countries plan on shutting down for weeks during this festive time of the year. People plan their budgets and make the long journey to be with family. Together, the bonds of blood draw people together.

They reflect, count their blessings, pour out their savings for the best decorations, delicious meals, loud celebrations, spectacular fireworks, and generous sharing with relatives. It is a picture of the goodness experienced over the year that has gone by and an optimistic look into the future year to come.

This is the year of the Pig. In the legend of the 12 animals representing the lunar calendar, the pig overslept on the day that annual assignments were passed out. The pig arrived last and was assigned the 12th and final year of the lunar cycle. At least he didn’t get volunteered for any dangerous mission.

While the pig may not have the prestige, reputation, or regard as some of the other animals in the West, it is painted in a very positive light. The pig represents prosperity. They have a beautiful personality. Finally, they portray a good and prosperous life. Not a bad portrait at all.

The Chinese have a way of saying something positive about every creature, person, and set of circumstances. If you were born in the Year of the Pig, you have a lot going for you. These years would be 2019, 2017, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947 and 1935. Whatever year and under whichever sign, I wish you the Happiest New Year!

photo by BWFong

The article on the inherent dangers of sugar made sense. A little bit goes a long way. But, a little bit of sugar just doesn’t seem to be the operational mode for any drink that uses sugar at all.

Finally, some relief.  The featured piece did make an allowance.  Since diet drinks did not use sugar, any of those options were legitimate.

Not long ago I was sipping on my diet drink.  Then, I was reading an article on the dangers of sugar substitutes.  It was even difficult to pronounce the names of these replacement sweeteners.

Of course the point of the article was to try to dissuade people from drinking the suspicious diet drink. Who knows what affects those horrible beverages will have on the innocent human body. But, at least there was some hope in this read as well.

Tea was a good option. Everything was natural. Tea was beneficial in fighting many diseases and illnesses.

Following the health nut recommendation, I was sipping on my bottle of green tea.  Of course I was reading an article. It was a connoisseur of teas that was being interviewed but of course another health tabloid.

She was saying that tea was a wonderful beverage. However, only drink freshly brewed teas. Bottled teas don’t have along shelf life and turn acidic over time. Acidic teas neutralize many of the health benefits from drinking teas.

Being the compliant learner that I am, I set aside my bottled green tea and began brewing my own.  The aroma was wonderful.  A hot cup of great smelling tea was the kind of comfort food that makes our day go along well.

Then, while enjoying a comfortable seat, enjoying the internal warmth from my freshly brewed cup of tea, I casually read the health wise article in front of me.  The missive traced the production of  materials used by many companies selling tea for tea bag brewing.

Shock! This material is cheaply made and massively exported all over the world.  The problem is that the production is unregulated and the materials used are carcinogenic! Good grief!

What’s a conscientious person supposed to drink around here, anyway?

Jesus turned the water NOT into diet soda.  Nor did He turn it into bottle green tea.  He didn’t even turn it into freshly brewed tea.  It was wine!

Pass me a bottle, quickly! I’m thirsty.

IMG_5313No, it is not Chinese.  Yes, it is in Chinese restaurants located in the USA.  No, restaurants in China do not offer these cookies for dessert.

Yet, the iconic fortune cookie makes its way into ethnic lore.  Sometimes it appears in movies.  Iron Man 3 the Mandarin waxes eloquent on the history of this crunchy tasty morsel.

He acknowledges what is generally accepted as true.  The ethnic identity is associated with Chinese.  Yet, few Americans realize that their assumptions bear little influence on the world stage.

The Mandarin reflected, “A true story about fortune cookies. They look Chinese. They sound… Chinese. But they’re actually an American invention. Which is why they’re hollow, full of lies, and leave a bad taste in the mouth.”

This monologue was true.  American ingenuity seems to have been at the forefront of this invention.  Originally, the cookie and fortune seem to have Japanese roots. This cookie announcement many say it all: “originated by the Japanese, exploited by the Chinese, consumed by Americans and entertained by all.”

Regardless of the real history of this conversation piece the fortune cookie is fun.  They offer a tasty end to a delicious meal. Further, they bring most people to a cheerful moment as the evening comes to a close.

Recently, I was out with friends.  We all ate a delicious Chinese restaurant.  The evening was delightful.

Our menu was well-balanced.  Chicken, fish, pork and tofu gave us our protein.  Green string beans, carrots and choy gave us our vegetables.

Flavors from Cantonese style foods were delicious. There was a wonderful blend in each of our plates.  Rice and noodles soaked up those taste bud sensations and satisfied every hungry soul at our table.

Without a second thought or expectation fortune cookies were delivered with the final bill.  We were laughing, joking, reminiscing and doing a lot of talking.  Pictures filled the climax of the meal as well.

Then we passed out the fortune cookies.  I opened mine and announced the delightful revelation.  It simply read, “Hallelujah!”

Our gathering of redeemed souls picked up a special enthusiasm.  Everyone wanted a cookie to explore “God’s will” and we all laughed.  Some of the fortunes were philosophical.  A few were nonsensical.

That special one-word declaration of “Hallelujah!” was unmatched. It was short, fun and true all at the same time.  That after all is what a fortune cookie is all about, eh?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_5065Texas BBQ has a common menu.  Chicken is always on the menu.  It is usually served as a half of bird, grilled golden brown and offered with a drenching of BBQ sauce.

There is always some beef option.  Rarely is the an option of beef ribs.  While it is Texas and beef is common here, beef ribs are still uncommon.

However, there is always brisket.  When brisket is offered it comes with options of lean or wet.  Go with the latter.  It is tender, moist, flavorful and you won’t gag on it because lean brisket is so dry.

Pork of course is the meat of choice.  It is tender and full of flavor as well as tender.  My taste buds salivate just thinking about delicious ribs, chops or ham.

There is another choice of pork that is as versatile as any BBQ menu selection.  It is pulled pork.  Flavor is always amazing.  Moisture and tenderness are rarely a disappointment.

Last week I decided that pulled pork was so good that I was going to make it myself.  Yes, I watched a video or two.  Also, I read up on it in my BBQ cook book.

For five hours I smoked a whole piglet on my grill.  On low heat, 200 degrees, I let the steady heat cure the pork with a perfect red band.  Now, the work would  begin.

Inside of our kitchen I laid the pieces of pork out on a chopping board.  Carefully I separated the main parts of the pork.  The aroma was killing me!

To quench the craving I ripped off a piece of hot juicy pork and popped it into my mouth.  It was delicious.  Before I could go on I closed my eyes and slowly chewed on the product produced in my own backyard.

I let the pork cool a bit so that my fingers would not burn.  Then, with methodical care I pulled pieces of pork off the bones.  Once hunks of meat were removed, I shredded the pork chunks into strips.

Our kitchen was filled with great aroma.  Mounds of freshly smoked pork were pile high in different bowls.  I would make sandwiches, tacos, breakfast sides, lunch entrees and dinner main courses from this store of prepared food.

Each time the tender bits and flavorful mouthfuls made me smile.  My bride and I marveled at the fun it was to have a week’s plan of meals all scheduled out after a weekend of preparation by a labor of love.  I sure am glad that God gave us tastebuds!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_4418We have had our pellet burning smoker for over a year.  I can finally grill chicken, steaks, pizza and pork tenderloin without burning or magically transforming them into jerky.  But, the adventure continues.

Smoking a brisket is one of the high points of a grill master.  Just kidding.  I would never assume that I deserve that title.  If I deserve any title for my outdoor cooking it is burn master or shoe leather maker.

My smoker success has rekindled the possibility of cooking a brisket.  So, I pulled out the cookbook that came with our smoker.  It had a page on smoking a brisket so I read it once, twice, thrice and then again two more times.

Have you ever bolstered your courage with the repetition of preparation?  That is exactly what I was doing.  I was prepared to take my bride out to dinner if this experiment failed.

The preparation for the meat was not hard.  I used a mixture of both a dry rub and wet BBQ sauce.  Then, I prepared a water spray to keep the meat moist.

I set my grill to smoke.  Once it was ready I laid the meat right on the grill and let it smoke for two hours.  Then, I increased the temperature to 275, put the meat in an aluminum tray with some water in the tray and let the low heat have its way for another three hours.

Every 45 minutes or so I would peek and spray.  It was looking good.  The aroma was fabulous.

At the total of 5 hour mark I donned my BBQ gloves and lifted the final product out of the grill on to a platter.  When I set it on the table I snapped a picture.  Then, I had no idea how it tasted or if it was a dry as jerky.

The brisket looked great and smelled even better.  It was worth a picture.  Then, the moment of truth came.

With the table set for two, I sliced several pieces off the finished product.  It is the cook’s prerogative to taste it in advance, right?  So I popped a piece in my mouth and was stunned!

It was delicious!  The flavor was amazing.  A deep satisfaction of seeing the red halo and watching the juices run over the carving knife blade only vie for attention from the popping of buttons.

photo credit: brucefong photography


IMG_4332My bride was thousands of miles away.  Before she left she filled the refrigerator with good cooking that I could divide up and enjoy during the days of her absence.  I was not shy.

Her selfless preparation, however, could not last forever.  When her food ran out, I began to wonder how I would fill the void.  What does a man do when he is by himself and it gets close to dinner time?

I am blessed to not only have a wonderful wife but also a large box store just a few miles from my home.  They sell large quantities of what most people need for their monthly staples.  A number of specialty items fill in the gaps.

Someone must be thinking of busy lives with little time to prepare a meal.  So this store stocks several items for hungry people like me.  It is a simple stop on the way home from work.

With my buggy leading the way I head for the back of the store.  Under the heat lamps and packaged in perfectly shaped containers are roasted chickens.  They are browned just right and the juices are oozing out along with an aroma that will not let many skip a smile as they walk by.

I am not one who is a passer-by.  Instead, I stop, select my bird and pick up the hot container and place it carefully in the shopping cart.  Next, I push my way over to the next aisle and see what is next and last on my list: tomato bisque soup.

A four-wheeled cart is really not necessary.  It is just that the chicken is too hot to carry.  Letting the soup sit next to the radiating entrée helps get the bisque ready for serving.

After I arrived at home, the “hungries” hit and hit hard.  It was time to put out a serving of my gourmet meal and enjoy the evening.  One plate and one bowl was all that I needed.

The microwave did its job with the soup.  I cut up the chicken.  It was an efficient serving.  There was not need to worry about presentation just get the edible food on the table.

One fork, one knife and one napkin round out the table setting.  I returned thanks to God for His bounty and I took a picture before digging into the meal.  My wife was proud of my delicious fare with enough in the refrigerator for three more meals, bachelor style.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4213Getting a chance to slip out of Texas during July is a respite from the searing heat and sticky humidity.  Taking a week to see family made sense.  Yet, it did not take long for the soul to be missing the tug from the Lone Star state.

Texas has a pride that grows on you.  I was not born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could.  That is a standard line for all of us transplants.

It usually gets a knowing laugh from native Texans.  This phrase also brings a warm welcome from the locals.  Soon the mystique grows on everyone who emigrates here.

It is not usually the scenery in Houston that conjures up  the spirit.  Houston is flat with no landscape sensations worth mentioning.

Natural beauty takes place in June when the wildflowers burst into bloom.  Blue skies and puffy cumulus clouds add to the flavor of the state.  Green grasses set off the blues, reds and yellow flowers.

Another natural wonder that we see often are the cloud formations.  Since the land is so flat we watch the spectacular thunderclouds roll in and see jagged flashes of lightning across the skies.  Jacob’s ladders form in the clouds as the sun fights to send its rays on to the earth.

People are a strength in Texas.  The people here have a kindness and hospitality about them that is refreshing.  Texans are likable and they like others in return.  God seems to have added a larger dose of cheer in the average Texan.

While I enjoy a variety of cuisine, Texas BBQ is special.  When the smoker is pumping out the white billows of hickory mixed with the aroma of pork ribs, beef brisket, chicken halves or sausage links the mouth waters up cheeks full of saliva that only knows eating as a solution.  This is the Texas spirit.

While away in Oregon, I saw an opportunity to take my family to some BBQ.  An eatery was recommended.  They served BBQ beef ribs.  I did not have to think about that choice; it was off my lips as soon as the waiter greeted us.

The aromas of the grill wafted through the restaurant.  I was looking forward to my treat.  The plate was mounded with ribs and the sides were just like home.

I sank my teeth into the fare.  At first I was happy.  Then, I knew that I was just encouraging my own spirit.  I missed Texas and BBQ was one of the reason I did.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4235My culture is marked by its cuisine.  It is no doubt a favorite take-out choice of many busy Americans and people the world-over.  Many of the menu selections of a Chinese restaurant are comfort food for the billions of us who grew up eating that style of food.

Mom’s devotion to her task of feeding the family marked our palates for life. Grandma double-downed on the family recipes.  Daughters and daughters-in-law copied, observed, tasted and tested the ingredients for that familiar family smile and reservoir of compliments.

Now, when we celebrate we go out to a local restaurant.  On a menu that seemingly needs a magnifying glass to read it, we pick out what we know.  Something familiar leaps out from the pages and we wait with expectation to enjoy all the memories of family, youth and legacy.

Once in a while something new happens.  It is not a completely new dish but there is a certain twist that captures our creative adventuresome spirits.  That happened at a Portland restaurant with my best buddy.

We have joined him there only once before.  It was so long ago no one could quite fix their finger on the occasion or date.  Finally, we set that thought aside when it was time to give the waitress our order.

Bob asked about our favorites.  We told him our short list.  He filled in a few gaps.

“You guys like tofu, right?”

“Oh, yeah!” it was a chorus in unison.  Comfort food was written all over that interchange.

“Then this will be a real treat,” he smiled broadly.  “I have this dish a couple of times a week.  You’re gonna love it.”

We have been friends for decades.  Our paths in life have covered many adventures.  Some have been sad but most were marked with great joy.

When the dish showed up we all took a modest helping.  The expectation was reserved.  After each one in our family tasted the dish we were stunned.

It was very familiar to all of us.  Nevertheless, it was very new.  Everyone was eager for a second helping only with a bigger portion this time.

The texture was buttery smooth. It nearly had the similarity with custard. Everyone complimented this dish.

Bob was right. We loved the dish.  There was some leftovers that he graciously allowed us to take home.

Excellent leftovers make it to breakfast. After that they are just a memory.  Something so familiar with a new twist gave us another great memory to tuck away with a fabulous friend.

photo credit: brucefong photography

iPad-2013.09.19- (1)This past year has been full of adventure, challenges and God’s blessings.  But, it is past.  Now, it was time to gather my leadership team, go out for a good meal and reflect on what we did well and what we can do better.

Four of us share in the leadership of our institution of graduate higher education.  Each one on this team is extremely capable and humble in carrying out their duties.  Loyalty is huge among us.

I chose the restaurant.  It was a surprise to everyone.  No one else had ever been to this snazzy place to dine except me.

It was a Brazilian steakhouse.  Lunch was the perfect time to come.  It was not as crowded as the evening and the price was like getting the meal on sale.

The salad bar is exquisite.  There are not many presentations of vegetables and unique offerings that compare.  Everything is fresh, bountiful and succulent.

But, for the four of us men, a visit to the salad bar was a mere courtesy.  The main event was waiting to converge on us.  All it took was to turn over a 3×3 card from red to green.

Setting the example with my veteran experience, I flipped my card to green.  Extremely attentive servers were at my side like flies to honey.  A long three prong skewer was loaded with three sirloin steaks, still sizzling from the grill.

The fragrance was enough to make my mouth drool.  He deftly sliced a generous portion and I grabbed it with my tongs and laid it on my plate.  But, I did not have a chance to taste since another server was quickly at my side.

On his serving skewer was a perfectly aromatic lamb roast.  I had to say yes.  When he sliced the tender portion and I laid it on my plate, I could not wipe the smile off of my face.

Another server sliced me a heavenly portion of prime rib.  It was succulent and overflowing with juices.  Quickly I turned my card over to red to stop the flood of food.

It was time to enjoy the moment.  Each slice erupted on my palate with the perfect balance of flavor, heat and tenderness.  This was an ideal spot for us to celebrate a fabulous year together.

Eagerly the four of us rehearsed the last academic year, discussed our hard lessons and reminded ourselves of what we could do better.  Each of us spoke specifically of our great strength, our faculty and staff team.  Others make the success possible, of that we assured ourselves, while downing another slice of roasted perfection.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography