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On Your Knees

Posted in art, Cooking Tips, Duke's Stories, Duke's Cooking Stories, Duke's Recipes, Handyman Tips, Kitchen Shop Tools, poems with tags , , , , , , , on May 25, 2014 by dukex

Cookies and Milk

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Welcome To Christmas, Welcome To America

Posted in Duke's Cooking Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2008 by dukex

american-flag-2aI was Working the broiler end of the dinner line at the plush Maxi’s Restaurant. A popular up, up and upper scale hot spot in the Red Lion Hotel located at Jantzen beach on the Columbia River in Portland Oregon. This was a very busy and challenging place to work as a cook, or any other position for that matter. We all worked hard, especially the people in the dish-room.

The kitchen was a grand masterpiece of planning and engineering. In addition to all the latest industrial cookware it had the square footage to match. The main kitchen was centered between Maxi’s hot and cold lines and the coffee shop area with its short order line. The adequate banquet prep and dish up area was located off one end of the setup while the dish room was at the other.

It was the early 80’s and we the crew had just been swamped by the thanksgiving holiday. (Where do all these people come from? Don’t they have homes to have their Thanksgiving holiday in?)

The days were busily slipping by and soon it would be Christmas. You don’t really know Christmas until you’ve worked one at a large hotel.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s the USA was the beneficiaries of several waves of immigrants whose families were suppressed and in real danger from their own governments. Many of these hard working people found employment in the food industry. I was really impressed with them; Men and women who back in their home countries were doctors and held other positions which I considered to be highly skilled. Now they were happy to be scrubbing potatoes and washing dishes.

They quickly earned the respect of me and many of my co-workers. I was always curious about them and their former life in Vietnam or Cambodia. They talked freely of the good things and seemed to be understandably guarded about the horrors they had seen and lived. I respected them for the positive attitudes they displayed. I never once heard a complaint that was common to the hard work and long hours that go hand in hand with the food service industry.

As I had mentioned earlier, Christmas was coming. I was feeling the sprit of giving and love. Prep work for the dinner rush meant many an afternoon shoulder to shoulder at the sink peeling and de-veining large shrimp with the help of a dishwasher/prep cook named Dohn. I really enjoyed this quiet time with my belly up to the stainless steel sink while the faucet trickled water over the thawing blocks of shrimp.

Much of our conversation was about the up coming holiday. I noticed that Dohn was not in the same zone I was about Christmas and so I asked him about his plans for that day.

Now I’m not sure if he knew or even believed what it was all about but he was courteous and gave a real effort to converse with me in spite of his limited English.

One of my many questions for Dohn was, did he have a Christmas tree yet? To which he replied that he did not. He went on to explain that he, his wife and three small children could not afford the $10 price tag for a tree. Ten dollars for a Christmas tree makes me pine for the 1980’s.

So being that I was in the Christmas Spirit and wanting to hug and kiss just about everyone I saw, I offered to provide one for them. It took some persuasion on my part, but Dohn agreed. He gave me the address to his home and a time when I could drop it by. It turned out that his family lived only a few blocks from my home and I kept the appointed time without much effort on my part.

While I was untying the tree from the roof of my car Dohn saw me from the window and came out to greet and help me with the tree. On the way to the front door he invited me in. Curious little hands and faces festooned the door and gave way to his lovely wife’s smile. I was warmly greeted and directed into their home. Things were being said to me I’m sure but I was in a state of amazement at the time so I can’t remember what.

The front room had exactly nothing in it. No couch, no big easy chair, no TV, no coffee table, nothing. I dragged the tree to one corner and leaned it up to the wall. They all urged me into the kitchen where there were some furnishings. A small kitchen table with one chair. Now, you can probably guess that they insisted that I sit in the one chair and be comfortable.

The next few moments were that of gratitude expressed in English and Cambodian. In my shock I was able to ask about his family and about how they came to America. He shared with me some of the many challenges they experienced in the past few years. Meanwhile in my mind I was asking myself a couple of questions. “Why did I bring them a stupid tree? What are they going to do with it; they had no lights, no garlands, no ornaments and defiantly no gifts from Santa or anyone else for that matter. The tree really is no good to them except to chop and burn in the fireplace.

After a pleasant time with Dohns family around the kitchen table I explained that I had to go, and we said our good byes.

That night at home I told my wife about what I had seen and she and I agreed we had to do more than just a tree with no lights. We got together with our friends from church and discovered there were many people who wanted to give to Dohn and his family. So the call went out and soon folks were showing up at our door with so many wonderful gifts and household items. After a couple days I made another appointment to visit with Dohn at his home again.

This time I was not alone. We had three cars and two trucks behind us. I knocked at the door and when it opened a precession of strangers began to enter with armfuls of items he and his family desperately needed.

A couch and a loveseat, an old easy chair, coffee table and a book shelf and TV. For the kitchen a complete dinette set with matching chairs, boxes and boxes of canned goods along with a turkey, a ham and all the fixings. The bedrooms were set with bunk beds and dressers. While the tree… The tree was covered with lights and propped by neatly wrapped gifts, covered in ribbons and fanciful bows.

I can hardly describe the scene without getting more than a little choked up. The children’s faces were all ramped up and their eyes were glazed over in disbelief. Dohn and his wife were conflicted between the blessing of this Christmas gift and their humility.

Few words were spoken while hands were grasped and arms draped around one another.

Many years have passed since the night we shared in that wonderful Christmas. I often wonder about Dohn and his family. I am sure he has been in a position to reach out and help someone in kind.

I do know this for sure. Anytime we reach out to help, and by so doing, lift a fellow human being, we ourselves are elevated.

Welcome to Christmas Dohn, Welcome to America…

Astronauts And Moon Pies

Posted in Duke's Cooking Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2008 by dukex

 

If Only I Listened To Mom

If Only I Listened To Mom

 

I am a humble Renaissance Man. Inventive and creative ideas are thrust at me like stones from outer space. Fortunately I am able to shield my brain quite effectively with a large screen plasma TV. 

 

Heh, I wish I had a plasma TV. I only have your standard 32in. table monster. “Large Screen Plasma TV” does make for a better read, don’t ya think? Anyhow; I am happily and completely married to my dear, lovely wife Patsy. We have 8 kids and 4 grand children between us. (Mostly the grand kids are between us on the couch).

 

Growing up I always had a dream of becoming a Food Network Star. My Mother, bless her heart had a different vision for me. Astronaut. That’s right she was under the impression that I should be going to the moon and other daring missions in space.

 

I do believe this all started when I was in the third grade. One afternoon she and I were at the food market shopping for the family dinner needs, when we ran into my third grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, really that was her name.

 

Mother and she exchanged the usual pleasantries when my mom followed up with this question, “So how is Duke doing in school?” She was very pleased when Mrs. Smith replied with, “He’s taking up space”.

 

Sorry mom, I never made it to the moon. I did eat a Moon Pie once though.

 

I love and miss you.

The One Time I Kicked My Uncle Bud’s Ass

Posted in Duke's Cooking Stories with tags , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2008 by dukex

You know it’s quite fitting for my cousin, Lorelle of Lorelle on WordPress, to share in my cooking passion. She was actually present for one of my first culinary experiments.

My Uncle Bud and his son, Loren West, snuggle on the couch in the 1960s.I’d say the year was 1967 and I was ten years old. My cousin Lorelle and her brother Loren were visiting with their dad, (my Uncle Bud). After my father had passed away two years earlier my Uncle Bud would visit from Lake Stevens, Washington, to help my widowed mother. Mostly he’d kick me and my older brother’s asses for being the little trouble making rats that we were.

One particular afternoon, my two cousins and I were playing outside and decided we were hungry. Being the capable child that I was, I took them into the kitchen to make us peanut butter sandwiches. Our house was in The Dalles Oregon and was built in the mid 40’s. It was a small three bedroom, full basement track home common to that neighborhood and period. The kitchen was small to say the least. It had a door out to the backyard and across from it a door to the basement. The plywood cabinets were a multi-layer of white paint. The counter tops were some kind of composite linoleum, red with fancy sparkles scattered about the surface. The counter edges were a banded chrome strip etched with parallel dark lines.

It was probably a week earlier when in that very same kitchen I learned about food coloring. My mother was working on some sort of baking project and showed me the transformative magic of just a few drops.

As I was pulling out the bread, peanut butter and knife. I spied the food coloring on the cabinet shelf. I had a revelation! I could take this edible and very safe ingredient and mix it into the peanut butter. I was a genius. A true star among kids. The spectacle of seeing me mix the peanut butter into a dark blue paste was pure entertainment to my younger cousins. I carefully spread this new and mystical blue goo evenly on three slices of saintly white bread, then divvied them out.

In a flash we were jetting out of the kitchen and zipping through the living room. Had our mouths not been stuffed with dark blue peanut butter, we would have been squealing with joy. We almost made it to the front door and out to the safety of the yard when I heard my Uncle Bud Scream. “What the Hell”!

We all screeched to a stop and slowly turned to face him.

With his eyes bugged out about as far as any adult could possibly bug out their own eyes the scream turned into, “Oh My #@!%$&! What have you fed my kids?”

Our faces were frozen with fear and our hearts were trembling. I slowly looked over at my cousin Loren and saw his face smeared with this greasy blue paste.

I can only now as a parent myself begin to understand the horror that was going through his mind. When I think about how our faces must have looked. Any sane person could only surmise that we all had just eaten some sort of gasket sealer or toxic epoxy.

As you can imagine I tried to explain to him that it was only harmless blue peanut butter but it took several minutes before I was able to speak. Our leftover portions were quickly snatched from our mitts and I was soundly informed that I was never to feed another thing to my cousins… I sometimes like to think… this was the one time I had kicked my Uncle Bud’s ass.

I love you Uncle Bud and I miss you…

Thanks, Lorelle, For Making Me Famous

Posted in Duke's Cooking Stories with tags , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2008 by dukex

Hey Lorelle: This is my first blog (be gentle). I want to thank you for the great article you wrote about my family and me and my cooking audition tape for the Food Network. You’re sure and swift talent as a word smith really socked my knocks off.

After reading about myself I thought, ”Hey I gotta meet this Duke guy”.

I’d like to take this moment to introduce my new tag line.

“Remember if you cooked it, you gotta eat it!”

What do you think? Or how about this one?

“Just because your food sticks to the wall, It don’t mean it’s art!”

Maybe I’ll get back to you on the tag line…

Handyman in the Kitchen Food Network Video

Posted in Kitchen Shop Tools, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2008 by dukex

I’m Duke DesRochers and I’m your handyman chef and Renaissance Man.

I just recently submitted my audition tape to the Food Network in their search for The Next Food Network Star.

Here’s the YouTube version of the audition video.

Duke DesRochers, Renaissance Man - Foot Network Audition Video

You can also find the video on The Food Network audition site at any of these links to leave a comment and vote for me to be the next Food Network star:

Sorry about that. The Food Network adjusts the links to the videos by their popularity, so pass the word around and keep it on page one and everyone can find it.

If you still want to vote for me and can’t find The Food Network video page, email them and cast your vote.

Love Cooking With Tools

I’ve always loved working with my hands, whether is it on my artwork, in the kitchen, or doing handyman work around the house, for friends, family, and paid jobs. One day I thought about how easy it was to use the lathe on wood, so why not carrots. Or the ever elusive potato? As a chef and handyman, why not mix my two passions together and bring the shop into the kitchen and see what would happen.

My cooking life has never been the same.

I look forward to sharing more of my handyman cooking style and tips with you here.

Here’s the YouTube Player so you can watch the video right here:

Cooking Garden Slugs?

Posted in Duke's Cooking Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2008 by dukex

Lately I have been experimenting with Gastropoda Desoceras Reticulatum, or more commonly referred to as the Garden Slug.

There are many varieties around the world and many countries and cultures revere the slug as a sacred and vital food source. Here is what I have found out so far.

Although the slug does not perform well as a door stop, they do however make an excellent shoe horn…

What? You think I was gonna eat those gross little tongues with a brain? Never!

I’m no Andrew Zimmern of “Bizarre Foods” on The Travel Channel. That guy has more balls than a cranberry bush!

I like doing crazy stuff with food, but I’m a little more cautious about cooking and eating crazy food stuff.

Here is the YouTube video of this season’s new episodes of Bizarre Foods.