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FROM THE VALLEY: One Picture Is Worth 1000 Calories

BY TOM VALLEY

“It goes without saying ...” That's a somewhat odd phrase, odd for several reasons. One: whenever someone says it, they invariably follow it up with whatever it was they were suggesting didn't need to be said. Two: if broken down like a math equation and taken literally, it could mean it goes without saying because it's just not true. Ergo, there's neither cause nor reason to bring it up.

And third (not so odd, and the accepted reason for it's conventional use): because what follows is an already well-known fact and it's merely being punctuated by a neighborly introduction.

Anyhow, it goes without saying that my wife Kathie is a great cook. (I refer you back to explanation number 3 … or I'm dead meat). But she really is.

Our three kids, Paul, Eric and Melissa, have followed in her footsteps. Fantastic chefs, each of them. Me? I'm so-so. But I try.

When I was a kid, I used to make brownies and stuff. But back then, I was under the impression that everyone made cakes and goodies from a Betty Crocker premixed package. When I found out that my friends Paul and Joe Seymour's mother, the wonderful Mrs. Seymour, didn't do that, I asked her: how in tarnation is that possible? She said she made them from scratch. After she explained what that meant, I became emboldened and determined to go home and try it myself.

I dug out one of my mom's cookbooks and found a recipe for maple cake. So I went for it. Unfortunately, I forgot the baking powder, which is essential in making the cake rise. Have you ever seen one of those round, flat cardboard discs that's placed under a frozen pizza? Well, when I took my cake out of the oven, it looked like that. And because it was a layer cake, I had two.

God bless my grandmother for her saving grace. She helped me put frosting between the two layers and said, “We'll just tell everybody, you made a giant cookie.” Wonderful. Dad put ice cream on his piece. Dad put ice cream on everything. Dad liked ice cream.

Nowadays, when I see a recipe that looks appealing, I get the urge to make it. An enticing picture alongside that recipe is the bait on the hook. That's the game-changer that gets my creative juices flowing, as I think, “Hey, that looks g-o-o-d. I bet I can make it.”

But, it never fails that when I look through the ingredients, there's always one or two things I never heard of: “2 whistle-breaths of fish tongue” or “a tablespoon of exotic bat sweat.” Forget it. Maybe in my next lifetime. That can of SpaghettiOs might not be so bad, after all — and I'm pretty damned sure everything I'll need is right there in that little tin-can.

Back to the picture thing: I'm the same way in restaurants. Fancy-schmantzy eateries have no pictures of food on their menus. Instead, they are filled with flowery language and foreign words, and for me, it's a crap-shoot whenever I order.

“So that's what 'Hamachi' is? Raw fish, huh! Who-da thunk? Any chance you could put some ice cream on it?”

Anyhow, give me a good ol' plastic-covered, germ-soaked, picture-laden menu like Perkins or Applebee's does and I can gain weight by just sitting there staring at it.

Come on, fess up: without the pictures would you really have ordered the onion rings, deep-fried quesadillas and stuffed mushrooms before the overly happy, stressed-out waitress plopped down your platter with a five-pound bacon-cheeseburger, fries and gravy? Exactly!

Final story: This past Sunday we had a family get-together, the first one since the social-distancing stuff set in. With all the great cooks (previously mentioned) we had quite the smorgasbord. (No menus needed.)

Steak kabobs, chicken kabobs, Angus burgers, Sahlen's hot dogs, Buffalo chicken mac and cheese … whatever you can imagine, we had it. We celebrated four family birthdays, Father's Day and our wonderful granddaughter Emma's graduation from Michigan State.

Unfortunately, her East Lansing university had to cancel their graduation festivities this year because of the virus. That's sad, yet, understandable. But the fact of the matter is, you can call off the ceremony, but you can't cancel the accomplishment. We are all so proud of her.

By the way, for dessert, my wife made one of her fabulous ice-cream cakes replete with the Michigan State logo. Amazing.

Dad would have loved it. Well, after putting more ice cream on top of it. (BTW: Happy belated Father's Day, Dad. We love and miss you.)

Stay safe. And … see ya!

That's the way it looks from the Valley.

Tvalley@Rochester.RR.com

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