Thursday, June 28, 2012

Memorial Weekend Saga: Episode III: Return to Sender

Somehow, Sunday mornings in Parma Heights, Ohio, always seem a little rough.  We all had a great time hangin’ out the night before, stuffing ourselves with seafood, drinkin’ beer like it was going out of style, and playing bocce ball in the yard with my cousins, but the cumulative affects of plenty of partying and not enough sleep tend to catch up a little on Sunday mornings. Undoubtedly, this is the likely reason why we didn’t end up hitting the road toward home until nearly 1:30 PM that afternoon.  We weren’t moving particularly fast, nor were we in a huge hurry to say our goodbyes, so it’s any wonder that we departed significantly later than any of us truly intended.
Of course, our journey began by taking us twenty-something minutes in the wrong direction from home so that we could hit the local Restaurant Depot in order to buy the meat we’d need to turn into meatballs for the Polish Festival at Our Lady of Czestochowa church before the following weekend.  We had no other choice than to go out of our way to get the meat in the Cleveland area because the Restaurant Depot in the Detroit area would have been closed long before we’d gotten back in town and we were planning on making the meatballs all day long on Memorial Day.  In other words, if we hadn’t gotten the meat on the way home, we’d’ve been screwed.

Once we’d spent waaay too long and waaay too much money on meat and sundry goods at the R.D. in Valley View, Ohio, we finally started cruising homeward bound with the wind in our sails -- but not much else.  All of us were pooped out from an entire weekend of damn good times, though Eddie was quite a trooper and took the helm the entire journey home, for which I am still indebted!  Amanda and Chicken (my mom’s 19 y.o. bichon frise whom I had in my custody while she was partying in FL w/ her side of the family) promptly zonked out in the back seat of the Envoy and slept pretty much all the way back to Detroit.  I did my best to keep Byrnes company, though I’m fairly certain that I’d succumbed to my drowsiness at least once or twice along the way.  Fortunately enough for all of us, Byrnes managed to stay awake at the wheel, so we made it back to town -- eventually. 
We decided during the last leg of the journey to venture directly out to Casa del Byrnes in West Bloomfield so that he could assess the situation with his problematic water heater, grab a few essentials, then run out to the local Lowe’s to get the replacement parts needed to complete the job.  Evidently, he had been given an authorization number from GE or Whirlpool for the purchase of this part because it was under warranty.  This would prevent him from having to cover the cost, only to get reimbursed later on, so we went and grabbed the part, then spent altogether faaar too long discussing the purchase of this item w/ the authorization number with some bonehead in the appliance department who was less than helpful and even less courteous than that.  Be sure that we let someone know about this lack of courtesy, for none of us were in any sort of mood to deal with such bullshit at the time.

Fortunately for us, the Lowe’s that had the part Eddie needed was only a 20 minute journey, so we were back to the homestead in just under an hour after we’d left. Undaunted by all the events that had transpired up to this point, Byrnes jumped right on the project upon our return to the house, though fixing the water heater required a significant amount of his patience to wait for the 45 gallons of water to drain out of it at a trickle.  Meanwhile, I excused myself and retreated to the comfort of the Envoy and managed to zonk out for a few minutes because it felt, at this point, that I was draggin’ more ass than Oprah.  My respite was short-lived, however, because Brother Schertzer (who’s technically my uncle, which is another story altogether) called to find out what the plan was for the remainder of the evening. 
After all, it was only 9:25 PM at this point and he hadn’t packed nearly as much adventure into the weekend as we had.  He reminded me that it was a Sunday night, but that no one had to work the next day bec of Memorial Day, so there was truly no excuse for not getting people together for a squirt and some grub.  His point well made, I told him that we’re green-lighting the hanging of out for later on in the evening and that I would give the usual suspects the heads-up.  Furthermore, Byrnes, Amanda, and I were rather geeked about getting the new deep fryer fired up for the first time ever, so why not tonight??
With a second wind in my sails, I was about to head down to the bsmnt offer my assistance w/ the repair of the water heater, but it was fairly clear that Eduardo had it under control.  Hell, by this time, he had nearly completed the project, so I did what I could to help expedite our departure while he wrapped things up.  Having successfully accomplished the mission, Byrnes was able to move on with the rest of the evening knowing that this wasn’t a problem awaiting his return at a later time, for which I’m certain he was greatly appreciative.

Compared to the trip thus far, the journey back to my place from Casa del Byrnes was nod but a quick jaunt.  While en route, I made a round of calls to the gang to let them know that we intended to whip up some fried vittles upon our arrival, a get-together to which I was extending a late-but-warm invitation to join us.  Those that I had been able to contact expressed interest in coming, so we ended up with a full roster and a fun little shindig before we knew it!   
The three of us made hasty work of unloading only that which absolutely needed to be unpacked before getting right on the task of firing up the new deep fryer.  Indeed, the fryer took every bit of the two (2) 4.5 gallon containers of cooking oil we’d purchased explicitly for this purpose.  It seems as though R & V Works, the manufacturer of this powerhouse deep fryer, left a little elbow room at the top, which means that even more oil than 8.5 gallons actually fits, though is probably not recommended.  Regardless, it took less than 20 minutes to have that oil heated up to the perfect cooking temperature; a thoroughly impressive amount of time to heat up such a large quantity of oil.

It takes 2 of these jugs to
fill the new deep fryer!
Eight or so turned out for the boneless chicken nuggets, popcorn shrimp, french fries, and potato pierogies we cooked up in a flash.  Never have we had a deep fryer capable of cooking fresh-cut french fries from start to finish in just one dunk -- never.  For those of you who do not understand just how impressive this is, just ask someone who’s tried to cook fries in a small countertop fry-daddy.  Cooking the same batch of fries would take at least 4 dunks of a few minutes each in the oil, with a waiting period between each dunk for the oil to come back up to temp.  If you’ve ever had soggy, greasy fried food, it was because the oil in which the food was cooked was not hot enough to properly cook the food -- guaranteed.  Truly, the only way to mitigate the loss of heat in the oil when dunking foods (esp. frozen) is for there to be more heat present.  The only way for there to be more heat present without overheating the oil is for there to be more oil being heated, literally.  Byrnes and I formed an instant and deep affinity for this 8.5 gallon deep fryer from R & V Works because the large volume of oil allows for so much heat to be present that it only requires one dunk to cook the food!  Even copious amounts of frozen food thrown into this unit does not drop the temperature below the minimum optimal cooking temperature, which, to us, is simply awesome!  
Though there are just a few very minor cosmetic things that we would like to see adjusted on a future design for this unit, we commend R & V Works for having designed and built a great product just as it should be done -- right here in the USA!!!  Not only were we, the picky owners of this beast, both very satisfied customers, all of our friends have been impressed by the fryer giving us kudos on the purchase and accolades on the badassedness of this monster!  Needless to say, the long, arduous journey that had been the third installment of the Memorial Weekend Saga ended merrily with our stomachs full of good grub and our mugs full of suds.  What more could we ask for?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Memorial Weekend Saga: Episode II: See Food, Eat It!

Unc, caught slightly off-guard!

Each Memorial Day Weekend, Uncle Phil throws his annual Seafood Boil, to which we were heading when the saga left off.  Indeed, it was a beautiful day for hanging out outdoors sluggin’ down ice cold beer and huckin’ on spicy hot seafood!   We careened toward the party as fast as reasonably possible while driving down Ohio’s meandering county highways and roads in a vehicle with out-of-state plates, which might have been easy prey for a bored state trooper had it not been for the indispensable driving skills of our most-frequent landship captain, Eddie Byrnes.

Me:  "I'm helping!"
Our arrival at Unc’s house was met with the traditional cracking of brewskis and our saying of hey’s, hi’s, and hello’s to all the folks that were already there hanging out having fun.  We rolled in just as Uncle Phil and Harry were starting to throw the ingredients into the 3 stock pots that they had on the boil already.  I gave them a little help opening lids and whatnot, but they were better off with me out of the way.  Once they had gotten to the point where the boil had to cook for a while, we were all able to take a load off and relax a bit.  
Games of bocce ball and corn hole were being thrown as those of us out-of-towners who had arrived tardy scarfed down heaping bowls of steaming hot jambalaya that had been served up as a precursory course of food for the family and friends that had gathered that day.  I think that we would have happily eaten even lousy food at that point due to the extreme hunger we’d been experiencing but, fortunately, this jambalaya was awesome (as usual!) and just what the doctor had ordered!  I’m particularly fond of the subtle, cumulative heat imparted to this food-of-the-gods by the homemade dried/crushed habanero peppers that had been grown by Unc himself!  
WoooHooo! Dibs on the corn!
As good as the jambalaya is, the main attraction is really the seafood boil!  Over the years, Harry and Phil (co-hosts of this shindig) have gone from one to three large pots in which to cook the grub in order to accommodate the 20 or so people with big appetites that attend each year!  Unc & Malue have the recipe down to a science, knowing the various times at which to throw in each of the ingredients to ensure that they cook properly, but not moreso than necessary.  In a little less than an hour, they had managed to whip up another incredible seafood boil, which we all attacked as soon as the green light was given!  
This was just some of the
seafood that we cooked up!
The next hour or so was spent chowing down on the medley of mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, crab legs, and potatoes!  My personal favorite, however, is huckin’ on the hot corn from the boil!!  For whatever reason, the corn thrown into the batch has a tendency to soak up more of the heat (read: spiciness) of the boil, making each piece an irresistible cob of spicy goodness.  Aside from the pound or so of seafood that I scarfed down, I must have had at least 3 whole ears of corn during that sitting!!  
I think I speak for all of us in saying that this year’s seafood boil was a great success!!  
The remainder of the evening was spent drinking, tossing bocce balls, and there were even a few zany shenanigans like shaving the long, rockstar-like locks of hair from the head of young Chuck Malue.   

Check out that hair!!
Say goodbye to those long locks!
Though the beer kept flowing and the tunes kept jamming as the evening kept on keepin’ on, we somehow managed to survive yet another fun, yet drunken and somewhat debaucherous episode of the Memorial Weekend Saga.  Little did we know that there was a lot more in store for us for the rest of the weekend!

Memorial Weekend Saga: Episode I: Cabin Fever

Our weekend adventure didn’t start until 6:01pm, and it wasn’t a minute too soon!  We all had to wrap up what felt like an unbearably long work-week before we could finally pack up the Envoy and set sail for the pastoral fields of Ashland, Ohio.

Hitting the road was fairly painless.  Our first departure only got us about a mile and a half down the road before we realized that we’d forgotten some mission-critical shit at my place.  Our final time of departure was 7:38pm, which put us at the cabin sometime between then and sun-up.

...tends to mess with people
from the back seat!
Our progress stagnated somewhat during our journey through Southgate, Michigan, due to our pitstop at Sam’s Club.  I ran in to order a pizza for the road (because we were all starving to death) while Byrnes and Amanda gassed-up the vehicle.  Unf, our late departure meant that our arrival at Sam’s Club was just prior to closing, so we were totally denied on the pizza.  This, in turn, meant that we had to go searching for the nearest place that could make us a pie on the quick, so we stopped in at the last place to buy booze before crossing the border into Ohio (called Jake’s Liquor) to ask about where the closest and best pizza could be found.  Oddly, the lady who had been so pleasant the first time we’d stopped in to buy liquor and smokes at Jake’s was not in the best of moods that evening and was somewhat short on words.  Regardless, we were told of Santo’s Pizza, which henceforth shall be referred to as Sancho’s Pizza, just up the road; so off we went on our quest to obtain reasonably affordable sustenance – both financially and physically – for none of us wanted diarrhea of the wallet or the arse.   
Chicken, my mom's 19 y.o.
dog, came along for the trip!
As it turns out, Sancho’s pizza was half-way decent -- not great -- though better than nothing.  Getting back on the road after this extended pitstop wasn’t exactly expedient, but we were all much more content after having stuffed our guts full of grub (and even a quick cold one for those of us who weren’t driving!).  
Plenty of 'tude comin' from, Amanda! 
‘Twas smooth sailing after the debacle getting fuel, smokes, and sustenance in southern Michigan.  We cruised on down the turnpike toward an exit not far from the middle of nowhere, which led us to a two-lane highway off which another road took us ever closer to our destination.  
The anticipation of our arrival was matched only by our yearning to get the hell out of the vehicle after what seemed to be an unnecessarily long, though enjoyable, journey.  Quickly forgotten were all the trials and tribulations of the week once we’d all had a chance to stretch our legs and slake our thirst with a couple of brewskis.  
Brother Chadlee
Brother Chad was already at the cabin awaiting our arrival with beers in the fridge and tunes on the radio.  We arrived shortly before midnight without much gas in the tanks -- the Envoy and our own. The four of us made quick work of killing a considerable amount of beer before throwing in the towel and calling it an evening, for there was much work to be done in the morning.
The brothers Byrnes managed to whip up a tasty breakfast with which we slugged down some potent java to get our engines revved up after what felt like an insufficient amount of sleep.  Before we knew it, the clock struck beer-thirty and it was time for us to crack ‘em and then get crackin’ on getting shit done!   A quick social broke the huddle indoors and sent each of us on a mission to start knocking out the chores that awaited us patiently.  
Capt. Eddie aboard the USS Husqvarna!!
Waist-high and jungle-thick, the lawn gave the 46” Husqvarna and Eddie quite the challenge.  Fortunately, Eddie woke up with enough patience to cut the entire lawn in a painstakingly slow gear in order to prevent the blades from bogging-down from too much grass being cut at once.  Chad cleaned up around the yard and in the cabin as I wrangled and wrestled w/ the weed whipper hacking down what Eddie couldn’t get to.  Amanda did a great job of preoccupying Gilly, Chad’s 8 y.o. son, so that we could kick ass around the property getting shit done.  
Casa del Byrnes
At some point during the early afternoon, the weed whacker ran out of gas at just about the same time that I did, so I set ‘er down, then laid down upon the grassy driveway whereon I had lain the previous time I’d been to the cabin for a bit of a respite from the work being done.  Not long had it taken me to zonk out cold from the drowsiness that had been accumulating throughout the day thus far.  The droning sound of a lawn mower is the perfect lullaby for taking a quick siesta while doing chores outside on a beautiful day. 
The lake is right at the back of the property!
The next thing I knew, I was awaken abruptly by the bite of a horsefly on my bicep, a clear sign from the Universe that nap-time was over and it was time to get my ass back to work.  Up and at ‘em, I grabbed a pair of ‘skis for Manda and I, whom I’d found on her return from her & Gilly’s trip to the local sandbox.  Apparently, it was time for the two of them to go jump in the lake, so I decided to join them for a quick dip to rinse the last of the cobwebs out from the nap and the grass that had stuck to me from sleeping in the driveway.  The water was the perfect temperature in which to swim, so Amanda and Gilly screwed around jumping off the dock after I  headed back up to the cabin to finish giving them a hand with the yard work.  
Another hour or so of landscaping went by fairly quick and, before we knew it, we were all back in the lake taking a final dip before we got our shit packed and ready to hit the road.  Indeed, it was later in the day than we’d hope to depart the cabin, but we’d managed to get nearly all of the chores done, of which the brothers Byrnes were greatly appreciative.  
Both thristy and hungry, we packed the vehicle and trailer hastily before saying our adieus and venturing toward the not-so-distant land they call Parma Heights, Ohio.  Our anticipation of the incredible food that awaited us upon our arrival was the only thing that kept us from stopping somewhere to gorge ourselves upon cheap and shitty grub after having worked up ferocious appetites from doing chores all morning.  Indeed, breakfast had been a distant memory as one country highway turned into another as we followed our GPS toward the next great leg of our Memorial Weekend adventure...