Have You Ever Bletted a Medlar? Me Neither.

Never forego the opportunity to add new words to your vocabulary. Doing so is especially gratifying if they refer to something so foreign to your experience as to seem otherworldly. If you can throw in a little bit of potty humor for good measure, then so much the better, as far as I’m concerned.

I came across the terms “bletted” and “medlar” in a roundabout way. Repressed adolescent that I am, I must confess that what really drew me in was a less title-worthy term for the medlar, which is “open-arse”. It seems that this was the name more commonly used for this fruit for 900 years. In other places, the medlar was called “monkey’s bottom” or “donkey’s bottom” or “dog’s bottom”. That’s all understandable, given what a medlar looks like.

Those names hardly make me want to rush out and try what was considered a delicacy in medieval Europe and is still popular today in countries near the Caspian Sea where it originates. But what intrigues me the most about this fruit is that it was once so popular, and it has such funny nicknames, that you’d think we’d have at least heard of it in the modern era, but I am willing to bet that 99 Americans and Europeans out of 100 never have. It was certainly news to me.

So how did the medlar drop off our radar? Well, for starters, it’s not an easy fruit to eat. You might even say it goes against your instincts. That’s where bletting comes in.

This is a Mediterranean fruit, and there it can be plucked and eaten right off the tree. But if you try to do so from a tree in a European climate, you wouldn’t like it, and you might even regret it. It could make you violently ill. Still, the tree itself is rather pretty in autumn. It’s green, yellow, brown, and blood red.

But the fruit? First of all, it doesn’t give off a “come hither” vibe, does it?. I’d be afraid it was poisonous if I didn’t know better. And oddly enough, you don’t harvest it until mid-November or December, when you’d much rather be inside by a warm fire, and when the fruit is still hard as a rock. Once harvested, you then put the fruit in a crate of sawdust or straw, or put them on racks with a lot of ventilation, in a cool, dark place, and forget about them for a few weeks until they start to rot.

Yes, I said rot. That’s what’s known as the bletting process. Medlars will look brown and squishy and feel kind of grainy at this stage, but they’ll also be extremely sweet. At that point you can eat the inner flesh right away, or you can use it as a colorfully sweet contrast to your cheese course. You can also make it into jelly, chutney, brandy, cider, or as a filling for tarts.

In medieval Europe, medlars were one of the only sources of sugar to be had in the wintertime, and they were therefore highly prized by many, even if some found them to be an acquired taste. They’re mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, as well as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Medlars probably sank into obscurity because tropical fruits such as pineapples and bananas became cheaper and more accessible after World War II, and you could get them year-round. Why bother harvesting a fruit in the frigid dead of winter that then had to bletted, taking up space for weeks, when you could run down to the corner shop and buy alternative winter sugar sources, no muss, no fuss?

Medlars could teach us much about how fickle fame can be. It makes me wonder what things loom large today that will be forgotten about entirely in 80 years. That adds a whole new layer of complexity to the concept of time travel.

“Wait. What? You’ve never heard of Kalamata olives? That’s it. I’m going back to 2023.”


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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 13: International Toad in the Hole

A classic English recipe with my own special international twist!

All that talk in my last post about oddly named British food got me thinking about Toad in the Hole. I first heard of this dish while watching a British reality show, and the name alone made me want to know more. Then, when I heard it was basically sausage baked in a batter that is identical to Yorkshire Pudding (which you might recognize as popovers), I was hooked. My mother used to make Yorkshire Pudding for me all the time. Food that has a nostalgia factor tastes twice as good.

That, and since I hate to cook, I’m naturally drawn to recipes that are easy, filling, and produce a lot of leftovers. This recipe ticks all those boxes. It’s also delicious. But fair warning: It’s not particularly healthy.

I started making Toad in the Hole in 2014, and after that it would pop up on my dinner table at least once a month. And then I got married in 2018, and oddly enough, I forgot all about it. I guess I had other things on my mind. But the research for my blog post from two days ago has settled Toad in the Hole back in the forefront of my cravings once again.

After a lot of trial and error, I found my favorite classic English Toad in the Hole recipe here at Simply Recipes.com.  If you like sausage, you’ll love it just as they’ve created it.

By contrast, I hate most sausage. Yeah. You heard me right. Sausage is not my thing. So of course once I got my hungry hands on this recipe, I had to make some modifications to make it my very own.

First and foremost, no English sausage for me. Instead, I use Polish Kielbasa. And just like that, I’ve turned it into an international dish. Could it now be called fusion? That seems a bit fancy. Decide for yourself.

The other modification I make is that I cut the kielbasa into inch long sections before pouring on the batter. That way, you always get the perfect sausage-to-pudding ratio. It’s a nice savory, oily, satisfying, downright yummy concoction, and it’s super easy to make.

Give it a try and tell me what you think!

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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 12: Tuna/Egg Salad

A quick and easy, yet satisfying recipe for the warm months to come.

As the title suggests, cooking doesn’t even appear on my list of favorite pastimes. When I do it, it’s because it’s either that or starvation. Starvation doesn’t make the above-mentioned list, either.

When I do cook, I do my best to make things that are quick and easy. I look for recipes with 5 to 7 ingredients. If the recipe shows more than 10 elements, forget it.

I prefer meals that I can make in a big batch and eat over several days, thus putting off the torture of cooking again for a while. Leftovers are my favorite foods. (My mother used to call leftovers “Dinosaur Meat” to keep me interested, but she needn’t have worried.)

Here’s a quick and easy, yet satisfying recipe for the warm months to come:

Tuna/Egg Salad

  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Tuna
  • Celery
  • Green Onion
  • Spinach
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lemon Juice

As per usual with my recipes, I don’t stress about quantities overmuch. Do what feels right for you. Then you’re more apt to enjoy the experience as well as the food.

Place a layer of spinach at the bottom of the bowl. Then chop up some green onion and celery, and add that.

In a separate bowl, add the drained tuna. (I like to chop it up even finer so it isn’t chunky.) Include the peeled and sliced hard boiled eggs. Add the lemon and mayo and mix it up. (I like to add a tiny bit too much mayo so that when I’m eating the meal, there’s some mayo for the veggies as well.) Place this mixture into the bowl with the veggies.

If you want to get fancy you can add some chopped up pickle. I usually can’t be bothered. Life’s too short.

Done! Just like that! Now you can get on with your life, safe in the knowledge that you won’t starve right away. Not a bad feeling to have, if you ask me.


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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 11: Travel Food

Ideas for eating healthy on the road.

I was taking a 13 day road trip, and I didn’t want to do what I had done on my last road trip, namely, eat pizza every single day. Don’t get me wrong. Pizza is one of my favorite foods. But less is more. Multiple days of it and I feel as though I’ll need a jackhammer to loosen my intestines.

Why so much pizza? Well, in the time of COVID-19, a lot of restaurants are closed, and/or stressful to enter. The one reliable source of takeout in a strange town, unless you want to resort to a fast-food chain restaurant (Noooooooo!) is pizza. So I needed to make a plan.

I decided to do my best to eat healthy. I would pack picnic breakfasts and lunches, and either pick something up to eat at a grocery store, or support a local restaurant for dinner. Not only were my intestines thrilled, but I saved a lot of money, too.

So what follows isn’t really a recipe (sorry) but more of an idea of what to pack for breakfasts and lunches and snacks for 13 days.

  • A dozen hard boiled eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Breakfast bars and/or granola
  • Cold cuts. (I went with turkey and ham and cheese.)
  • Sandwich thins. (Fewer carbs and they take up less space. Sadly, the same number of calories.)
  • Fruit (I went with apples and grapes.)
  • Carrots
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts
  • Ranch dressing
  • Jerky
  • Dried fruit
  • Water

After that, all I needed was a cooler, plates, bowls, utensils, a roll of paper towels, and cold packs that I’d refreeze every night in the room. Sometimes, for a change of pace, I’d pick up salad fixin’s from a grocery store and add cold cuts and ranch dressing to that.

The beauty of many of these things is that they can be mixed and matched for variety. The ranch dressing is good on sandwiches, and it makes a good snack when combined with carrots. I used it to make egg salad, too. The peanut butter made for a good sandwich, and it’s also good with apples, granola or nuts. I used a different combo of cold cuts on my sandwiches each day. I could make my own trail mix.

You can even do this on road trips where you plan to fly to your first destination and rent a car. There are really efficient collapsible coolers now, or you can buy a cheap styrofoam one upon arrival if, unlike me, you don’t feel guilty about adding that to the landfill afterward. Then all you have to do is hit a grocery store, and away you go!

Making healthy choices may take a little extra effort, but it’s worth it.

Okay, okay… I bought chips when I stopped for gas, too. So sue me. I was on vacation.

What are your travel food ideas? Share them in the comments below!

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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 10: Rice Bowls

A healthy, filling meal.

I know. Hate is a strong word. But it’s true: I HATE to cook. But sometimes you just have to. When that happens, I do my best to lessen the agony by using the least amount of ingredients to get flavor, or using the simplest techniques to reduce effort. This is the tenth recipe I’ve shared on this blog. Check them out in my recipe section.

This time around, I’ll tell you about something I’ve been doing for lunch of late. This requires more prep time than most of my recipes do, but the beauty of it is, you can get 6 lunches out of it, so in the end, it’s worth the effort.

Rice Bowls

  • 6 cups of rice, cooked.

  • Protein (Cooked leftovers or from a can.) (I recommend chicken or steak or salmon or tofu or cheese or tuna.)

  • Anything that floats your boat! (I recommend some combination of at least 4 of the following: onion, garlic, mushrooms, spinach, green onions, squash, squash blossoms, green beans, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots, but really this is limited only by your imagination or by what you find in your fridge.

  • Oil for the spinach, and butter or lard for the rest of the veggies.

  • Soy sauce or salt to be added just before eating.

To start, I throw 3 cups of uncooked rice (I like basmati, but any type is fine) into my rice cooker with the prescribed amount of water. Rice cookers are one of life’s greatest inventions, if you ask me. Miraculously, 6 cups of perfectly cooked rice will emerge.

While the rice cooker is doing its thing, I prepare the veggies and such.

First of all, if you’re using spinach, I hope it’s organic, because spinach is one of the most chemically tainted things in the grocery store. Anyway, you’ll want to wilt your spinach in a pot. Just throw a little oil over medium heat, and stir the spinach so the leaves on top get as wilty as the ones on the bottom. Divide it up into 3 microwavable bowls when it’s done.

Next, chop up all your other items that you plan to saute. Put the hard stuff (Any combination of onions, garlic, squash, carrots, green beans, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, whatever.) on to saute first. I use butter or lard.

While that stuff is being sautéed, chop up whatever ingredients you are using that take less time to saute (like mushrooms, green onions, squash blossoms and any precooked veggie leftovers.) When the hard group is looking almost done, add the soft group in and stir everything together until it looks edible to you.

Divide these sauteed ingredients into the three microwavable bowls that are already holding the spinach.

Hopefully by now, your rice is done. Now listen carefully. Put half that rice (3 cooked cups) into its own, empty bowl and refrigerate it. Then next week, when you want to do 3 more lunches, you will already have the rice to use, so every other week of doing this will be less complicated. Yay!

Now you’re left with 3 cups of cooked rice. Put one cup each into your three microwavable bowls that already have the veggies. Then toss your protein into each.

There you have it! 3 lunches. Bring ‘em to work, toss ’em into the microwave, and when it’s done, add some soy sauce or some salt, and you’ve got yourself a healthy, filling meal.

You could, of course, make 5 days worth, but I’d get bored eating the same thing every single day, so I stagger a few TV dinners in there for variety.

Share any variations on this theme that you’ve tried, and/or suggest other simple recipes below. But the main thing to do is this: Enjoy!

rice bowl cooked cu 2

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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 9: Watergate Cake

A unique and easy cake to bake.

The following recipe was handed down to me from my mother, who claimed it was a cake created by the Watergate Hotel. I hope it’s true. It would be nice to think that place is known for something other than a gigantic political scandal. (And incidentally, in the course of doing research for this post, I found out that you can still stay in the scandal room, and even have drinks with the original arresting officers, for the bargain price of $2500 a night. Imagine.)

Watergate cake is my favorite cake of all time. It’s fluffy and flavorful, and comes out a surprising light green. I recently made it for my husband’s birthday, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you. It’s super easy. It makes a double layer cake, and I like to use fluffy, white frosting on it, but that’s up to you. It’s actually such a flavorful cake that it doesn’t really need frosting.

Watergate Cake

  • 1 package white cake mix

  • 1 package pistachio instant pudding mix

  • 3 eggs

  • ¾ cup oil

  • ½ cup of finely chopped nuts (optional)

  • 1 cup club soda (NO SUBSTITUTE)

Mix everything together and pour evenly into two buttered cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Frost when cool if the spirit moves you.

Simple. Delicious. Try it!

watergate cake

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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 8: Unexpected Salad

A recipe with unexpected ingredients.

Sometimes I’ll come across a recipe with ingredients that have absolutely no right to be mixed together. It’s hard to believe that anyone would combine these things, and that the result would come out even remotely edible. These recipes often intrigue me, because they sound so awful that if anyone has taken the time to embarrass themselves like this, there must be something to it. The following is one of those recipes.

I came across this dish while binge watching season one of Queer Eye. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But it was pretty, and weird enough to be worth trying. And it turns out that I LOVE it. Trust me. Try it. You’ll be amazed, and your friends will be, too, because even though it takes very little effort, it looks and tastes like it comes from a Michelin star restaurant.

Unexpected Salad

1 Pink Grapefruit

1 Avocado

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 pinch kosher salt

Olive Oil

Cut the avocado in half, then cut the halves into half inch slices. Cut both ends off the grapefruit, and then slice off the rest of the skin so the fruit is totally exposed. Peel the fruit sections from the surrounding skin. (The goal is to only have the pretty pink fruit parts). Hold back the two most mangled sections of the grapefruit for juice for the dressing. Arrange the fruit and avocado together in a bowl. (The color contrasts are beautiful!)


Squeeze the grapefruit juice from two leftover sections into a bowl. Add 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, and a pinch of kosher salt. Mix together. This mixture constitutes 1/3 of the dressing. Now add twice as much olive oil. Mix together, and drizzle over the salad.

Serves 2.

I know. Weird. But trust me. Try it! And tell me what you think!

Grapefruit and avocado

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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 7: Sausage Plus

This one was inspired by a visit to my local farmers’ market.

Yup, I still hate to cook, but it’s necessary for survival. One thing I do like to do, however, is go to farmers’ markets. I like to go with an open mind and be inspired by what’s available. I do believe in eating local,  organic, and in season.

The other day we went to my favorite farmers’ market and we saw some of the most amazing chilies. That was all it took, really. I said, “Oooh, don’t we have some sausage in the fridge?”

So we bought a bunch of chilies of various colors, and one nice big onion, and away we went.

As per usual with my lazy recipes, you decide the amounts of each ingredient based on your taste. For this one we used Field Roast brand Apple and Sage Vegan Sausage, but you can use any type of sausage that you want. Hot or mild, vegan or non, according to your preference. After that it’s simple.

  • Chilies

  • Onions

  • Sausage

  • Butter

  • Salt

  • Pepper

Slice the chilies and make sure the seeds are all removed. Slice the onions. Place these ingredients in an aluminum foil wrapper, along with the sausage and some butter. Season to taste.

Place them on the grill, and flip it every ten minutes or so. When it starts smelling good, check to see if the veggies are cooked to your liking. The sausage, if pre-cooked like ours was, just needs to get hot and mingle its flavor with the veggies.

Done! Yum!


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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 6: Barb and Cris’ Super Salad

Cooking is much more fun when you do it together.

Yes, I still hate to cook, as a general rule. It’s not one of my first choices for a pastime. But it’s necessary for survival. And I must admit that I’m finding it a lot more fun now that I have someone in my life to cook with. We’ve formed a sort of we’re-in-this-together mentality about food prep that turns it into less of a chore and more of an opportunity to spend time together.

One of the things we prepare on a regular basis is the most amazing salad. It has such a variety of flavors and textures that it’s always an eating adventure. And while I usually avoid preparing meals with more than five ingredients, once these salads become a habit, they can be thrown together rather quickly.

This salad is even more satisfying when the produce comes from your garden or from a local farmer’s market. Fresh. Delicious. Worth the effort.

As per usual with my recipes, the amount of each ingredient is entirely up to you.

Barb and Cris’ Super Salad

  • Greens (Anything but iceberg. Walk on the wild side!)

  • Baby Carrots

  • Broccoli

  • Cauliflower

  • Sunflower Seeds

  • Craisins

  • Scallions

  • Heirloom Tomatoes (anything less, and you’re cheating yourself.)

  • Garlic Snapes (Much more subtle than garlic, but only available if you grow them yourself.)

  • Radishes (I skip those.)

  • Dill pickles

  • Celery

  • Mushrooms

  • Chunks of Cheese

  • Nutritional Yeast (Cris skips this.)

  • Dressing (I prefer Ranch, myself.)

  • Croutons

  • Parmesan Cheese (because you can never have too much cheese.)

  • If you’re making this a major meal, you can add chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, etc.

Add or delete ingredients according to your taste. Mix all together,and enjoy, preferably outside. Nature adds flavor!


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Oddly Inappropriate

Isn’t it strange to watch a movie that you absolutely adored at another time in your life, only to discover that now you find it creepy? Sadly, I’ve had that experience on more than one occasion. It makes me wonder who I used to be, and why I used to think the way I did.

For example, as a kid, I absolutely adored Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But now there are a couple scenes that give me the willies. The first is Chu Chi Face, in which the Baroness Bomburst is clad in a bustier, and strikes sexy poses as she and the Baron pretend to be all lovey-dovey, when they actually despise each other. In fact, while she seems to be sexually wooing him, he’s attempting to kill her. Soft porn, anyone? The second is the Child Catcher number, in which he baits children with candy only to then abduct them.

And then, of course, there’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Three words: The Tunnel Scene. It’s a combination of a sick acid trip and a disturbing poem. It’s downright twisted. Willy Wonka was clearly a warped individual overall. I would not leave my child in a room alone with him. Factory inheritance be damned.

Later, when I was older and should have known better, I got taken in by the movie Grease. In which Sandy, a sweet, clean-cut girl, is groomed into thinking that the only way she can get her guy (who, incidentally, is a not-very-bright thug wannabe, as played by cult member John Travolta), is by transforming herself into a frizzy-haired, spandex-wearing, overly-made-up, cigarette-smoking, high-heeled temptress. “You’re the One that I Want.” Great message for the girls of the world. “Feel your way,” indeed.

I know that my earlier acceptance of certain scenes were a product of the times in which I was living, but jeez…


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