Wednesday, May 30, 2007


My first grade girlfriends and I celebrate 60 years of friendship and our 65th years of life by going on an Alaskan cruise together. We chose American Holland Cruise Lines and sailed on the Zandam. The ship departed from Vancouver, sailed up to Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Ketchikan. The rooms were very comfortable and not what I expected. As this was my first cruise, I thought the cabins would be smaller and less well appointed. Instead there was room for everything and even when the three of us sat in one room, which was rarely, we were comfortable.

The food was very good. Each morning we enjoyed the buffet which held most everything one would want. For lunch we enjoyed the dining room three times and the buffet the other days. Every night we ate in the dining room even though we didn't bring very fancy clothes. We all had basic neutrals which we dressed up with all our jewelery and other fancies, in order to pass and not embarrass either us or the other guests. Being Canadians we were more worried about spoiling the dress-up effect for others should we be too casual. Not to worry. While some people did elect to wear tuxes and long dresses, we got by with our improvised dress-up. Next time, I would take one dress because the dining room meals are not to be missed.

Service in the dining room was superb as was the service all over the boat. We bought a wine package and they would save the wine from one night, re cork the bottle and serve it to us until we finished it. Five wines went down fairly easily and I was surprised we drank that much. The wines were pretty good and well chosen by the sommelier. Our waiters were Balinese and we enjoyed hearing about their lives on board. They didn't complain but nobody has to when you realize they work 7 days a week, twelve hours a day. Rarely do they leave the ship and when they do, they go straight to the phones and call their sorely missed loved ones. You can sense an aching in them, even though they put on a happy face.The chef's extravaganza night was particularly good. We all wore chef's hats and the waiters and sommeliers and cooks and chefs all put on a kind of opening parade and a flamboyant dessert presentation.

The shore excursions were interesting however the towns are just rows of touristy chops. The train ride in Skagway was very enjoyable as was the trip to a cannery. The best part of the cruise was the day we sailed into Glacier Bay and enjoyed the majesty and beauty of both the glacier and the bay itself.

On board, we loved the nightly shows, even the corny comedians were entertaining. We spent half and hour in the casino one night; another night we joined a sing-along in the bar. We went to the dessert extravaganza to take pictures but didn't participate in the demolition of the beautiful plates. One evening, we attended the captains reception and spent some time talking to one of the crew members who waxed enthusiastic about his life style on board half the year and off, at home, in Europe, the other half.

In summary we were well fed, nicely entertained and had plenty of time to talk and catch up. A good time was had by all and we are planning our next excursion. Maybe the same time next year.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

My brother-in-law swears by his #8 Griswold Waffle Iron. He uses a recipe from the American Woman's cookbook circa 1942, p. 133 which is pretty straight forward.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsps. baking powder
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. shortening (he uses Crisco), melted

Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together. Add the milk gradually, then the eggs, beaten lightly. Finally add the melted shortening. Make sure both sides of the waffle iron are hot and that it is well greased. After baking each waffle, let the iron heat a minute, before putting in batter for the next.

Jim gave me a link to ebay for purchasing a Griswold but I haven't done so yet. The iron is placed on a gas burner and can achieve great heat. Jim claims that this heat level is what produces the crisp waffles we seek. I believe he is right.

Almost all the waffles I make or order disappoint me. I expect them to be uniformly golden brown, as crisp as an ice cream cone on the outside and tender and flavorful on the inside. In restaurants, they are frequently brown enough but thin and never quite crisp. My own are often mottled in color, limp and doughy inside.

The ideal waffle should taste like pancake but have a slightly buttery flavor with perhaps just a touch of vanilla aroma. The crust should shatter lightly under the fork. Atop such a heavenly creation, one should not pour maple syrup which will instantly ruin the texture. Instead, if syrup is necessary, each crisp forkful should be dipped quickly just before placing it in the mouth. Or preferably another topping should be chosen such as a compote -apricot, strawberry or raspberry which will perch on the top, adding wonderful complimentary flavor, but no damage to the texture. Fresh sliced strawberries, just slightly sweetened would also be delightful. The worst insult one can cause to a light, crisp waffle is application of the dreaded "strawberry topping" ala IHOP, that gooey pile of mushy red corn syrup, cloyingly sweet and sickeningly sticky. And then, quelle horreur, in many restaurants this abomination is topped with a pile of pseudo whipped cream. It's ugly, excessive in calories and sweetness and tastes terrible.

I will not waffle on this position.