Judy’s Tales: The Ketchup Incident

I wrote a speech at my mom’s memorial service about all of the adventures and good times she had throughout her life. At the end of the speech, I mentioned something about ketchup:

I can’t wait for the day to come where I’ll find peace in a photo, find comfort in her belongings and be able to laugh at an empty ketchup bottle on a restaurant table.

As my uncle Marty read that final line, the packed room let out a chuckle, as most people knew exactly what I was referencing.

I’ve mentioned before about how picky of an eater my mother was. Not only was she particular about what she ate, but she was also ridiculous about where she ate, how things were prepared and who could have potentially tampered with her food prior to arrival. She was the mom version of Sheldon Cooper. 😉

The universe loved to fuck with her too. If a hair dropped onto a plate back in the kitchen of a restaurant, you can guarantee it ended up on her plate. If someone was serving cake at a birthday party, they’d lick their finger just as they were handing my mom her piece. If there was a fly in a restaurant, it would be buzzing beside our table (with a few dead ones along the windowsill too).

All of those things would send my mom into a tizzy, having her either make us leave, or politely decline to eat, sending us into a rage of fury. “You’re being ridiculous, mom!” “Just close your eyes and pretend the hair was never there, Judy!” we’d all exclaim. But once my mom was disgusted, there was no changing her mind.

But the one thing that was the most terrifying, detested, wretched, despicable, gut-wrenching, and offensive of all was when my mom caught a glimpse of an almost empty, crust-rimmed ketchup bottle on a restaurant table.

Empty Bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup - Oct 2011I can’t remember exactly when it started. I do know it was way before glass ketchup bottles were replaced with the squeeze bottle version. My mom had witnessed a guy stick his butter knife into the bottle to help aid the flow of the ketchup. He then proceeded to lick his butter knife, place it into the bottle once again to retrieve more ketchup, resulting in my mother wincing in absolute horror and making her forever ask for full bottles of ketchup from that day on.

When she learned that some restaurants refill bottles as they get low, she began asking for NEW bottles of ketchup and demanded to open them herself so she can hear that heavenly pop of a new cap twisting off. Even as establishments moved away from glass bottles and into plastic squeeze bottles, the mental damage had been done, and if a used bottle was in my mom’s view, she’d ask the waiter for a new one. She would never demand a fresh bottle, it would be more like a request backed with giggles and a singsong voice charming even the most ornery of waiters to abide by her insane request with a smile.

As more and more ketchup incidences occurred, eventually we (her family and even friends!) would be the ones to start asking the waiters for a new bottle as we saw needed. Even before they’d take our drink orders we’d say “save time and confusion and just bring us a new bottle of ketchup, trust us”. My mom would laugh and laugh and laugh giving us this deer in headlights look (see pic below) that I swear I have started giving people myself!

Miss you so much mom. Hoping you’re surrounded by nothing but fresh and sparkling new ketchup bottles in the afterlife! 🙂



Raw spaghetti, lemon spaghetti

Last week I blogged about my cousin Glenn’s wedding to his lovely wife Victoria and all of the awesome times we had during that weekend. I wrote a little bit about my relationship with Glenn and how much fun we had during our childhood years. I mentioned a little something about spaghetti, and how I would save that tale for a separate post, as it deserved its own!

Here is that blog post. Oh, and do not try this at home.

Like I said in the wedding recap, my cousin Glenn and I had an adventurous childhood. Every weekend when we were kids we’d spend the night at our grandparents, Abuelo and Abuelamom’s, house. We’d spend hours upon hours riding our bikes around the neighborhood, catching lizards along the brick fence on the property, playing with Tinker Toys (and fishing for raccoons in the wooded area behind Abuelo’s shop with Tinker Toy fishing rods- I know, I know.), playing Super Mario, wrestling with our WWF stuffed wrestlers, and stealing raw spaghetti strands from my grandmother’s pantry.

I don’t know when it started, but for as long as I can remember, Glenn and I loved to eat raw spaghetti.

Not macaroni. Not ziti. No sheets of lasagna. Just plain Mueller raw spaghetti.

You see, my grandmother loved to make spaghetti. She’d make it at least once a week and always had new boxes of spaghetti ready and waiting in the tall pantry in her kitchen. Any time she’d say she was cooking it, Glenn and I would be ready to pounce on extra strands of raw spaghetti that might fall onto the counter unnoticed. Abuelamom wasn’t thrilled with our habit, and would warn us about “broken teeth”, stomachaches and cagaletta. Look up that last word, or ask a Cuban friend. No matter the dramatic warnings, there was nothing stopping us from munching on those little straws of raw semolina.

Those munchies would come at the strangest of times too. Like super late nights when we’d be up past our bedtime watching TV or playing Nintendo. The craving would hit and we would oh-so-quietly tip toe from the bedroom, past our sleeping grandparents (with their TV still on and oh-so-loud), into the kitchen, slip sliding with our socks across the terrazzo floor, over to the pantry where we’d carefully turn the doorknob, crack open a new box of raw spaghetti, fill our pockets with strands, then high tail it back to the bedroom where we’d sit on top of our trundle bed and devour the straws like sneaky mice on a rooftop. We would do this weekend after weekend until one day, apparently my grandmother had enough. We must have left too much of a trail one on of those tip toe adventures, or maybe we were just dumb enough to think that she would never notice the torn packs of her new spaghetti boxes. Regardless, one day, she lost it.

Glenn and I were outside playing in the driveway. Abuelo was tinkering around in his shop. Suddenly we heard an earth shattering “GodDammit” and we saw our grandmother swing open the turqouise carport door, so hard we thought the jalousie windows would crack into a million pieces. In her hands she held not one, not two, not three, but four slightly opened boxes of Muellers spaghetti. We stared as she walked over to us then watched in awe as Abuelamom threw all four boxes into the air, scattering hundreds of raw spaghetti strands onto the concrete driveway and yard as she screamed “stop eating my damn spaghetti, Goddammit!”

Glenn and I were speechless for a moment. My grandfather never missed a step in his shop and kept welding away on whatever he was making at the moment. As soon as Abuelamom walked back inside, Glenn and I burst out into uncontrollable laughter as we began picking up each one of those strands until the last straw was in the garbage.

I can’t remember if we ever ate my grandmother’s spaghetti after that day. But to THIS day, you’ll still find me cooking spaghetti and sneaking in a few strands to munch on while boiling the others. And if you ask Glenn, I’m almost certain he hasn’t lost the urge to do the same. 😉

Here’s a spaghetti recipe in honor of our Abuelamom. And while you make it, sneak a piece and let me know how ya like it. 😉

Lemon spaghetti with veggies

1 box brown rice spaghetti (or whatever spaghetti you like!)
2 cups of fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. salt (remember, you have a full lb. of pasta!)
1 tbsp. dried basil
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup sliced black olives
1/2 shallot, minced

Boil the pasta as directed, but try and cook to slightly al dente, just for good measure =) Drain, do NOT rinse, and add back into the original pot. Turn off heat. In a bowl, combine lemon juice, shallot, spices, salt. Whisk together to combine. Continue whisking and add EVOO until the oil has emulsified into the juice mixture. Set aside. Add spinach, tomatoes and olives to the hot pasta. The temperature of the pasta will wilt the spinach just enough to soften it, but leaving the bright green color and flavors intact. Pour the dressing over the pasta and stir until all pasta is coated. Let the pasta sit for 5 minutes, then serve warm. I like to add an extra squeeze of lemon to each individual serving, just for some extra pizazz. Enjoy!

7014What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever enjoyed eating?

Steph 🙂


2 years

Two years ago today I met the guy I’m lucky enough to call my boyfriend.

Our first date was dinner at a sports bar watching the Rays play. For almost the entire time he didn’t make eye contact with me. He’d either look down, look past or look at the game, occasionally meeting my eyes, but then quickly diverting somewhere else. At the time, I had come to grips with the fact that this would be just another free meal with an adorable guy who was most definitely not interested. We watched the entire game, then I drove him to his car since it was pouring rain outside and we were parked on opposite sides of the lot. We chatted in my truck for a while and when he went in for a good night kiss, I obliviously turned away, having him smack one on my cheek. It wasn’t until we were driving home after our date had ended, when he called “just to talk”, that I knew he was different, and that this could potentially be something special.  Continue reading


Gusty Cooks Club: Fiyuelos

One of my mother’s all time favorite breakfast foods were Spanish crepes called Fiyuelos. As a child, she’d beg her mother (my grandmother Josephine) to make these thin, flat crepes for her and her cousin Sandra on the weekends. The girls would wait patiently as Abuelamom heated up butter in a cast-iron skillet and whisked together the simple ingredients: eggs, flour, salt, sugar, milk, rum extract, melted butter. Continue reading


So you want to do a triathlon?

The following information and training plan is something that I’ve used in the past when preparing for my first triathlon. I am, by no means, a professional or licensed trainer. Please make sure to consult your physician before starting any new workout routine or training plan, and, as always, listen to your body!

Congratulations! You’ve made the commitment to cross something major off your bucket list: a sprint triathlon! In the summer of 2010 I began training for my very first sprint triathlon race. Since then I have completed 2 triathlons and absolutely love this type of event! Crossing the finish line of a triathlon is a feeling like no other. It’s an amazing sense of strength and accomplishment! Continue reading


Journey not finish line

I’ve come to find that no one has the answers when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. In the end, you truly must do what works for you. We cannot depend on a new diet gimmick, weight loss tricks or the like. And although we like to take the advice of others, sometimes that advice isn’t something that will benefit you and your own journey. Continue reading