French Fries

FRENCH FRIES

By Gloria Pitzer

As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 16)

‘NOBODY DOES IT LIKE McDONALD’s CAN’ – [was] the popular television jingle that advertised some of the best French-fried shoestring potatoes to come down the pike in a long while. The French did not invent French fries – American fur trappers did. Potatoes were not well-thought of in the early days of this country. But, fur trappers would melt down bear grease in large open kettles over their campfires and, when the grease began to bubble, they’d spear chunks of their dressed game meat, roots and potatoes on the end of a sharply pointed stick, setting them in the hot grease to cook to the individual’s liking and then eat off the stick – much like modern-day shish kabobs or fondue.

TO MAKE FRENCH FRIES at home – long, white Russets work best! Peel and cut in half lengthwise. Place cut sides on a cutting board and remove a thin slice from each end, as well as from the rounded long-sides. You now have sort of rectangle blocks to work with. Slice these into 1/4-inch thick strips and place in a deep refrigerator container. Mix 1-quart water with ½ cup vinegar and pour over potatoes, repeating this process until you have enough to cover the potatoes. Cover and chill for several hours to draw out the starch that makes a fried potato hold the grease and become limp.

After chilling, drain them well on paper towels. Drop a few at a time, using a French-frying basket, into 425°F oil that’s at least 4” deep. A good combination is 1-pint corn oil to 1 cup Crisco, using as much as is needed for the amount you are preparing, keeping it 4 inches deep; and, if the oil is not hot enough, the fries will turn out greasy. Let the potatoes “Blanche” in the oil rather than fry completely, removing them after just one minute. Drop them on a cookie sheet and put in your freezer for 10 minutes. Return them to the oil to fry until golden brown and drain them well on paper towels. Salt them as you wish, which also helps to evaporate any excess grease on the finished potatoes. Most of the salt will fall off when the fries are transferred to serving plates.

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available, for sale, at $20.99 each through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – How to Have a Yard Sale in One Easy Breakdown

Hi everyone! Another fabulous Monday is upon us and, either, this week celebrates National Bargain Hunting Week, according to NationalDayCalendar.com; or it was last week, as BargainHunting.webs.com, describes that it’s celebrated from the first Monday of August through the following Sunday and has been observed, annually, since 1996.

A celebration for bargain hunting would have probably been among Mom’s top 10 favorite kinds of festivities, as she was always a pushover for a good bargain! Even in her last few months, when every little activity or bought of excitement seemed to drain her of energy, she still insisted on going to the J.C. Penny’s store in our local mall to bargain shop in their purse department! That was her second favorite thing to do – writing, of course, was always #1. Nevertheless, Mom LOVED purses – especially when they were on sale or clearance!

#BargainHuntingWeek

Like mother, like daughter – I’m a bargain shopper, too; not for purses, per say, but for my own favorite kinds of things. The big orange clearance signs just seem to beckon us, like the vibrant orange trumpet flowers that lure the hummingbirds. It’s an irresistible summon that feeds a wanting hunger. I don’t know who originated the saying, but it’s so true… “it’s more about the journey than the destination” – which is very similar to NationalDayCalendar.com’s comment: “The hunt for the bargain can be just as exciting as the item discovered.”

Quite often, on our weekend road trips around Southeastern Michigan and the “Thumb Area”, my husband and I will try to find new antique and 2nd-hand shops to investigate. We’ve discovered, on our many explorations, that, demographically, certain areas have better bargains on certain things than others.

However, that observation is based solely on the kinds of things that WE are looking to buy; for example, we often look for old farm, nautical and bar items – to name a few. We’ll find more nautical stuff near our Great Lakes and more farm stuff further inland. Bar items are everywhere – but, we find them cheaper further inland, than near the Great Lakes.

Whenever I’ve gone to garage/yard sales and antique/2nd-hand shops, I usually walk away with something that was a bargain, at least to me. I have an eclectic array of different tchotchke collections, such as Blue Mountain Pottery, Christmas village pieces and Michigan lighthouse sculptures to name a few.

If this is National Bargain Hunting Week, then I will certainly be on the lookout for a super bargain! That just gives me one more reason to check out some more yard/garage sales, as well as antique and 2nd-hand shops! This past weekend, there was an annual “Antiques & Yard Sale Trail” that ran all the way around the “Thumb Area” of Michigan, along (and near) the M-25/M-29 “Circle Tour” Highway.

I’ve shopped the “Trail” a few different years and, living near the main highway for it, I’ve also hosted a few of my own yard sales during the event. Overall, I think I prefer to shop it rather than “work it”, as I like to refer to it; because hosting a YARD sale is a LOT of work! I wish I had a garage!

A garage would be a lot easier to set up in – since, to begin with, it’s a solid, enclosed, protected area. If I had a garage, I could set up my tables earlier and put stuff out a little bit each night as I clean out different rooms of our house. I have to do it all in one day, the day before my sale starts; because it’s under a temporary structure that’s somewhat open to the elements.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

I used to have yard sales every year (at least once – sometimes twice) to recycle and recirculate my bargain finds, making room for more and/or different stuff. Due to various extenuating circumstances, I haven’t been able to host a yard sale in the last 5 years, though. I don’t miss the work, as that’s getting harder on me, the older I get! But I do miss setting up my “store” and operating it.

To begin with, I don’t even plan a yard sale unless a few conditions are met, first: I need to have a Wednesday through Saturday free of time, to set it up, work it and tear it down; the weather needs to be favorable, at least for the most part because I don’t have a solid garage for protection from the elements; and I need to have enough of other-peoples’-treasures to sell, because most people don’t even stop if all you have “in your store” is a small table with a dozen things or less on it and around it.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

Michigan weather changes often. Thus, since I don’t have a garage, I use two large screened tents, which set up side-by-side has 20’x22’ of covered space – close to the size of an average 2-car garage. These are important to keep my tables and displays dry or shaded, whatever the weather may bring. But, in part because I’m OCD, I need a day to set these up, along with all my tables and clothes rods. Then I can bring out all the boxes of stuff that I’ve cleaned out of closets, cupboards and the basement; and set up my “store”.

I like to make my yard sales “worth stopping and shopping”! Maybe it’s because I’m OCD (or CDO – alphabetically) or because of all my years of working in retail – but, I set my sales up by “departments”, with each table/area representing a different department. There are clothes, shoes and other such accessories that are all grouped by sizes, in one area; furniture and décor in another area; kitchen appliances and gadgets are all in another area. Other “departments” that I usually create with my tables and displays include bed and bath stuff, hardware and tools, sporting goods, yard and garden, books, electronics and so on. To save time on pricing everything individually, I use general pricing posters – for example “All Clothes $1 per Piece”.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

I get a lot of compliments on my yard sale set-ups because they’re so organized. I also sell a lot because I price my stuff to sell… I’m not putting it all out there just to haul it all back in because I wanted to squeeze out every penny I could from my “junk” that MIGHT be somebody else’s “treasure”. I look at each item as if I was going to purchase it at someone else’s sale and I ask myself, “What would I be willing to pay for that?” (Then, again, I’m kind of cheap – because, like I’ve said, I love bargains!)

Here’s another one of Mom’s No Laughing Matter stories, in which she wrote about a garage sale experience she had when we were living in Pearl Beach. I think this was from around the mid to late 1970s; maybe the summer before we moved to St. Clair. The story is titled, Have a Garage Sale in one Easy Breakdown. As I’ve mentioned in other blog entries, previously, I can’t find the exact date of when Mom wrote this story, nor in what papers it was published. Among others, sprinkled across the country, most (if not all) of Mom’s No Laughing Matter columns were published in the Port Huron (MI) area’s “Times Herald” in the 1970s.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

HAVE A GARAGE SALE IN ONE EASY BREAKDOWN!

By Gloria Pitzer – Recipe DetectiveTM

Until you’ve had a garage sale, you just don’t know what you’re missing. I’ve just had one and I know! I’m missing three garbage cans, my husband’s workbench, a swing set, four lawn chairs and our station wagon. Actually, those items weren’t for sale, but you can’t refuse a good price when it’s offered to you.

All I really wanted to sell was a few odds-and-ends like 7 dozen Ruby Bee Jelly glasses, a coke bottle mosaic of my mother-in-law, a transistor radio guaranteed to crack plaster when operated by a teenager, an illustrated guide book to Disneyland and my husband’s bowling ball.

Of course, if the truth were known, I just had to do something about the closets before we were cited for contempt by the Pollution Control Commission. The kids were cleaning out their rooms and dragging out microscopes that had only examined curdled milk. There was an electric train with which only their father had played, a guitar that never played a tune (but made a neat tennis racket), socks that scratched and even their old report cards. But, I drew the line when it came to selling their toothbrushes and underwear. I mean, a person has to be reasonable about these things!

I had heard that garage sales were successful, but I didn’t believe it until I saw 23 cars double-parked in our drainage ditch, a pick-up truck on the back porch and a dune buggy in the furnace room! It takes a garage sale to prove that a woman will buy anything, if she thinks it’s on sale.

Afterall, what can one do with a dead philodendron plant – a plastic one, yet? I also learned that there’s no exercise so efficacious for the upper arms as standing in the midst of a group of mad women and trying to keep them from taking the rafters apart while trying to get at our storm windows (which I’ll have you know were NOT for sale); but, little did they care.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

One woman offered me a dollar for the dress I was wearing, and I had to run half a block to catch up with the lady who gave my son 50 cents for the sheets on the clothes lines. Did she care it was my laundry and I had to make the beds before the day was over – and where would I be without those sheets?

I finally had to administer first aid to the two girls who fought so bitterly over which of them was going to drag off to their car a plaid CPO jacket and a pair of blue worsted men’s slacks! Mind you. I wouldn’t have cared under any other circumstances, but my husband was still in them AND he didn’t want to go with either of them. He wanted to stay home and watch the ball game on TV!

By 6pm, they had bought everything that wasn’t breathing, barking or encased in concrete. As I sat at the kitchen table, counting up the profits of the day, my husband came staggering in, bruised and breathless. ‘You know that guy with the flat-bed truck, who’s been hanging around all day?’ [He asked.] ‘Well, he just gave me $50 and drove off with our garage!’

It all goes to prove, if I had put a price on those kids of ours, I might have sold them – but, who could afford to feed them once they got them home?

The Pitzer Kids – Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Enjoy your week – go on a journey – find a bargain – AND post it on Social media with:

#BargainHuntingWeek

IN CLOSING…

#NationalJulienneFriesDay

Today is, also, according to the foodie calendar at OCFoodies.com, National Julienne Fries Day. Julienning is a specific style of cutting, as explained really well on Wikipedia; and using this style of cut on potatoes creates long, thin fries that are similar to what McDonalds serves. Many different root vegetables can be julienned. Since I can’t have potatoes in my low-carb lifestyle, I plan to julienne some carrots to fry for myself, using the same process as Mom directs in the following recipe.