Confession No. 53 – Not now. Not ever. No matter what.

We all have a list of things that we refuse to do, no matter the circumstances. Mine is longer than most.

It goes without saying to the folks who know me that I’ll never consider Daddy Longlegs to be ticklish; I will never require a parachute; and I’ll never sport skin art, no matter the tattooist’s talent or the cleanliness of his parlor.

I can remember it like it was yesterday … my 1976 trip to Colorado in the family station wagon. The 24-hour drive was fine, since Dad fashioned a large piece of thick foam to lay across the folded down backseat. He even fitted it with a sheet and allowed my sister and me to bring along our pillows and some coloring books. Seat belts, for whatever reason, mattered about as much as lead paint and room-temperature potato salad back in those days. We survived, but I digress. The real footprint of that vacation was the Royal Gorge.

All you really need to know is that the Royal Gorge sports one of the highest suspension bridges in the world. Walking across the green-colored structure — 956 feet above the Arkansas River — introduced me to a sensation that I would experience only a few more times during the next 35 years: uncontrollable shaking of my feet accompanied by a strange pain in the arches.

I felt it again in the early 1980s atop the 300-foot ‘oil derrick’ observation tower at Six Flags Over Texas; during my mid-1990s descent of the 100-foot Cedar Bridge fire watchtower in the Pinelands National Reserve; and in 2002 at Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee.

My conclusion: Man was meant to be grounded — at sea level. And I intend to abide from here on.

I believe we were also meant to keep to our own species, to a certain extent. Coexisting with cats, dogs or a tank of fish is one thing. I’m even OK with the occasional snake, orb weaver or bat. They are, after all, mostly beneficial to have around. But peacefully sleeping beneath a cluster of Daddy Longlegs? That is just plain wrong.

My hate affair with this harmless spider began during my bath time as a three-year-old. As I wrapped up the water fight between the Six Million Dollar Man and his invisible foes, I went to place the victorious action figure on the edge of the tub. During the process, I my eye caught something perched on my shoulder: an eight-legged creature with a pill-like body.

We made eye contact. I screamed. Dad came running.

“You must’ve scared him off,” Dad said, laughing. “I don’t see him.”

Despite his explanation that Daddy Longlegs don’t eat people — they don’t even bite people — this incident had the makings of a scarring one. And, boy did it!

Even as an Eagle Scout with more than 30 years of camping experience under my belt (including some very primitive camping on occasion), I hone in on only one thing during my nightly inspections: any creature of the Opiliones order of arachnids. And to make matters more meticulous, any discovery prompts another full sweep.

And I’ll never adjust that routine.

My list of noteworthy nevers, for better or worse, also includes a few actions and reactions.

If you’ve ever brushed your nose to let me know that I need to brush mine, I have your back. But, if I’ve ever left a meeting with you and noticed something really embarrassing when I see my reflection in the rear-view mirror, all bets are off.

You might really require that motorized scooter, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to hurry up my label-reading in the canned tomato aisle. You’ll just have to wait. You are, after all, the one who is seated and relaxed — which is why I’ll never change my stance on this one. At least, as long as I’m walking while I shop.

Want me to come to your party? Invite me — on paper. Otherwise, I’ll never show. If it’s a party at which you are selling stuff or trying to convince me to join your pyramid scheme multi-level marketing group, don’t even bother asking … in writing or otherwise.

One more thing … If you depart the facilities with toilet paper dangling from your waistband, I just cannot be your wing man. Not now. Not ever. No matter what.

If you like what you read here, please do me a favor and tell 50 of your closest friends about me. Also, please come join the daily conversation by ‘liking’ my Facebook page.


It’s the story of my life: I fall in love with a restaurant or a particular dish, and it either goes bankrupt, the owner dies or I move 1,400 miles away. Szechuan Gourmet was located in Shipbottom, NJ on Long Beach Island, not far from the causeway bridge. Compared with most Chinese restaurants, it was upscale — plush seating, low lighting and the owner’s art featured throughout. They were masters when it came to eggplant, and the following dish is one of my all-time favorites.

Gold Coin

A golden batter surrounds creamy eggplant and savory marinated pork. Szechuan garlic sauce brings it all together.

Marinade
1 teaspoon – Dry white wine
1 teaspoon – Sugar
1/2 teaspoon – Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon – Fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon – White pepper
1 Tablespoon – Toasted sesame oil
2 cloves – Garlic, minced

1/2 lb. – Ground pork
1 lb – Eggplant, peeled (slender, Asian style is preferable but not required)

All-purpose flour, for dredging
Your favorite Tempura batter

Vegetable or peanut oil for frying

Combine all marinade ingredients in bowl, add pork. Mix well and let sit for as long as it takes to prep the remainder of the recipe, about 20 minutes.

Heat oil to 350F.

Cut slender eggplant into 1-inch slices, or ‘coins.’ If using large round eggplant, cut in half lengthwise, then cut in half lengthwise again. — Cut each slice almost in half – enough to allow it to be stuffed. Place about 2 Tablespoons of raw marinated meat mixture in each eggplant ‘coin.’

Prepare Tempura batter, preferably in a stainless bowl. Place stainless bowl atop another bowl filled with ice.

Dredge each piece of stuffed eggplant in flour, then dip in cold batter. Place carefully in hot oil. Fry for about 3-4 minutes; remove and set aside. Repeat until all ‘coins’ are cooked. Allow oil to reheat, then fry each piece for another minute, or so, until golden. Serve immediately drizzled with Szechuan Garlic Sauce.

Makes four dinner servings, or about 10 appetizer-sized servings.

Szechuan Garlic Sauce

2 Tablespoons – Dry rice wine or dry white wine
1 Tablespoon – Fresh ginger, minced
3 Cloves – Garlic, minced
1½ Tablespoons – Ground fresh chile paste -or- chile garlic sauce
2 teaspoons – Sugar
2 teaspoons – Cornstarch
1/2 cup – Vegetable or chicken stock, preferably low sodium*
1½ Tablespoons – Dark soy sauce *(slightly less if using non-low sodium stock)

Optional: 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro; 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (for a little extra kick)

Mix the stock and cornstarch in small bowl and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and heat to near boiling. Add stock mixture to pan, stirring constantly until thickened.

Comments

  1. Mmmmm. Looks delicious. We had a favorite Asian restaurant in Baltimore, when we lived there, and they made a “Crispy Diced Chicken” that I’ve never found anywhere else. I can’t even remember the name of the place, now, but it was the first think I thought of when I read about Szechaun Gourmet, above ;-)

    • It happens all-too-often. Even my favorite brand of hot dogs disappeared after the company was bought by another. Through some experimenting, I can recreate the gold coin and possibly even the funky orange-colored sauce served with the steak finger basket at a long-ago closed local hamburger joint … but hot dogs? How the heck am I supposed to recreate a hot dog?

  2. juanitascocina says:

    Yummay. Like, for real, yummay.

    We have strange daddy long legs out here in the country. They are HUGE and have big butts. We seem to develop colonies of them near the front door sometimes. My wife tries to convince me that they’re harmless and I should just leave them alone. And then one fell on me. And since then, all bets are off.

  3. The Mom Chef says:

    It’s funny. I originally thought those were chicken nugget type things when I glanced at the picture and was totally uninterested in the recipe. But, I read on and saw that magical word; eggplant. Oh yeah, those are going to be mine, all mine.

    There must be something about daddy long legs because it’s one of them that sparked my fear of spiders, though mine was on a swimming tube I wanted (I was 3 years old). My dad thought it would be a ‘teaching moment’ and so refused to remove it for me. I didn’t swim and I now have a fear of spiders, though daddy long legs are the one variety that don’t bother me. Welcome to my weirdness.

  4. I might try the eggplant (I know my mom will) but that sauce! Mmmm…sounds delish!

  5. Adam, those coins look delicious. I’ll give them a try when it’s cool enough to want to heat the kitchen. I just don’t think I could deep fry on the bar-b-que!

  6. Love eggplant, have to try this recipe when we get a cool down!

  7. Love your confessions and your cooking!

  8. My family said when I was two I had a complete fascination with Daddy Long Legs and would drag the entire family out to look at them whenever I could. Now if I see a spider my long legs go a runnin’!

    Lisa
    http://sheslosingit.net

    • Lisa – Just two weeks ago, I was showing off an orb weaver (giant yellow garden spider) to my wife and the youngest kid. Within 12 hours, she disappeared from her web. I suspect it was the female cardinal I saw over in my pomegranate tree. And now? I’m sad and ticked off at birds. But daddy longlegs? The cardinals can have them all, as far as I’m concerned.

  9. What is it about men & spiders? Okay…DADDY long legs. LOL

  10. Daddy Long legs are about the ONLY spider I will tolerate….any other and it’s either dead meat or I sick my cat on it! ;-) but only because I know the DLL won’t bite….

  11. Food Stories says:

    Loved your post … Happy Saturday :-)

  12. I have two daughters in their 20s. They both scream and run around the house if a daddy long legs shows up. I am left to shoo it out. I don’t like to squash them. The daughters have, on the other hand, named three flys that have managed to get squashed in three different door jambs. They flatly refuse to let me remove ‘Geoffery’ from the side of the bathroom door. They “like him there”. Very strange.

    Love the eggplant dish. Not nuggety at all.

    Best,
    Conor

    • Conor – Good to see you! It’s funny. My 13-year-old daughter insisted that I not kill a bee that she named ‘Phil.’ And I really had no reason to, since bees are generally a productive member of the animal kingdom. But, ‘Phil’ — a carpenter bee — invited his gang along to nosh of the wood supporting our back porch cover. Go figure.

  13. great blog post–he he 6 million dollar man!!!!!
    Love the recipe!

  14. When it comes to favorite restaurants, or even products at the grocery store, if I like it ti WILL go away. Was beginning to think I was the only one this happened to.

    As for those spiders of yours, you should see the giant, long legged wood spiders we have in Florida! 6″ across!

    I’m allergic to eggplant (and most of the members of the nightshade family), but I will definitely try that sauce. Thanks for sharing your stories and recipes!

  15. As always, a wonderful story and great recipe.

    I agree with you on parachutes and heights. I’ll probably go down with the plane before I’ll jump. I remember taking a road trip to Colorado with my mother and brother. I think he was interviewing for jobs (not sure, but I think that’s why we went) I was driving when we got to the Royal Gorge. Without saying a word, I stopped the car, got out and hopped in the backseat….in the middle….and did not look out the whole way across. I still get grief on that.

  16. Awesome looking recipe & sauce that I’m putting on my list. Your Colorado trip reminded me of the “olden days” & my father setting up the back of the station wagon with the foam, pillows & coloring books. Not as long a trip as yours but in those days pre-Rt.495, the trip from Mass to the very top of Maine was a long one with no facilities along the way. I’m with you on heights and spiders but snakes…nuh unh – I run screaming like a girl.
    I did help out a guy once who had the toilet paper streamer on his shoe. The unfortunate man was walking down the aisle on his way in to our manager’s office for an interview. It was unfortunate because everyone along that aisle was a bunch of smart azzes who were completely cracking up but I just couldn’t help it – was only a matter of stomping on it to at least shorten the half roll he was trailing.

    • Diane – How very kind of you to stomp the man’s streamer. I’m with the smartasses in the hallway though. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Did his interview go well?

      • Nah, I think the poor guy was a little too rattled by everyone leaning out of their cubicles & the rambunctious atmosphere of our group. Why they ever put the personnel director in the middle of our group I’ll never know. We were a very loud group.

        • Poor guy. Now I feel badly.

          • I’m sure he was much happier working for a bank. Wasn’t as bad as another time. You know those window blinds w/the wide slats & there’s a plastic wand you can draw them side to side. Dave was interviewing a guy & he noticed the sun was in the interviewee’s eyes so he just reached back to pull the blinds shut. Only thing was, the guys had taken a couple of centerfolds, cut them in strips & glued them to the slats so when Dave closed the blinds, there were a couple of naked ladies staring at the potential hire & Dave, never having looked behind him had no idea what the guy was now staring at. Hey, it was a small software company w/an average theoretical age of 28.

          • Awesome! Why can’t I ever land employment at such places?

          • You know Adam, I have a feeling you would have fit in very well with our group. We eventually got bought out by Dun & Bradstreet and had to tone things down a little, but mostly just on official visits.

          • Even the D&B guys should want some … laid-backness (made up word) once in a while.

  17. Loved the post!

  18. Great rant. I have a rule in this house: daddy Longlegs can stay up in a corner as long as they wish, as long as they never come down to my living space. They seem to know the rule. It has never been an issue. Also, if I find an ugly spider in winter, it can stay, but it must live in such a way that I never see it again after I escort it to one of my plants (in a glass, with the hair up on my neck). It’s good to have rules and be clear about them. Sometimes, even spiders get it… perhaps more than some people! :-)

  19. I had a similar experience when I was old enough to know what a mouse is but not a bat when one of them flew out of the dark straight toward my head and touched my hair with its horrid little feet. Can’t abide the wretched things to this day.

  20. Adam, this dinner inspired our dinner last night. Was a big hit with both of us. Thank you.

    ~Ann

Trackbacks

  1. […] forms at the market. I do know that eggplant and I were just long lost friends — until I tried gold coin, an aptly named appetizer served at Szechuan Gourmet, a non-buffet Chinese restaurant in Beach […]

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