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Sizzling Spicy September

This has been a month of FOOD, FOOD and more FOOD!!!!! I cannot remember when I have been to more things and done more relating to food! Rosh Hashonah started the month of September very early this year……..the Rabbi and his lovely wife wanted me to come to them in the City, but I explained that last year I was back in the states and since I have chosen Panama as my new home, I felt the need to cook and prepare for the holiday here in my new home. I know of a few Jewish people in this area, but most on the beaches are only weekend visitors from the city, and they are the ones with the beautiful homes. I do not know them as of yet, and now that the holidays are winding down, the Rabbi in the city (Rabbi Laine) which I call MY Rabbi, will be introducing me to the Rabbi out here on the beaches and we will go from there. BUT- what I decided to do was to invite the one couple that I am very friendly with, Deb and Eric Fletcher, and because Eric has spent so many years in Miami, he is familiar with a lot of Jewish customs and has had a lot of Jewish friends. I love them both dearly and felt very comfortable sharing my holiday with them. BUT- the cooking….Yes, foods had to be made. I had shopped at the Super Kosher market in the city prior to the holidays, buying Gefilte Fish (no guys – no way am I making it from scratch), but did buy a Kosher Frozen Empire Chicken which was “organic” and made my chicken soup and as always, had enough to freeze for those moments of sickness when one wants a good chicken soup to cure them. I then made Matza Balls. And for the holidays, you must have Brisket. I had to settle for the Kosher Brisket as I am not familiar with Panama meats and have never seen a brisket and my “chef” friends certainly could not help me out there. So- a Kosher Brisket, imported from the U. S., selling here at $18.00 per pound!!!!!! But I did it – after all, my FIRST Jewish Holiday Dinner!!! I made a Noodle Kugel, and I will tell you getting the right noodles was no easy thing either. They have zillions of noodles – all kinds, but not the type you need for a good “luxion” kugle. I finally found a package of Italian noodles that looked like it was exactly what I needed and used them. The Kugel was out of this world. The only thing I lacked was a ROUND Challah, or for that matter, Challah at all. My high class new store that has opened here does make an egg bread, but if I had to settle, OK. I couldn’t get back to the city on the same day as a dinner to buy the bread at the Kosher Market and no such thing out on the beaches, so I was about to settle when dear Eric shows up as a surprise one day before the holidays with something for me to taste!. (Eric bakes cakes professionally and sells to the restaurants here) – he made Challah for me to try. Well, with one taste, I quickly opened a bottle of wine and we drank wine while eating “bread.”

Debby, Karen, Anwar and Eric

Debby, Karen, Anwar and Eric

He said he would bring the bread for the holiday dinner, and what he did was to make ROUND individual Challahs and then some to freeze for later. I have to tell you this was by far the most delicious Challah I have ever had!!! I know Eric is reading this blog so I will go no further as I don’t want to inflate his ego any more than it is already!!!!! But Eric, thank you from the bottom of my hear for completing my holiday meal. And friends, I did ask the Chef here at the Restaurant to make me an Apple Pie. I was in no mood for any more cooking!

Individual Challah

Individual Challah

I did ask Anwar and his wife Karen to join us before dinner as Anwar is from Venezuela, but raised most of his life in the Bronx in New York and has a wonderful restaurant here. WE have become friends and I wanted them to be here for some of the observances and they were. I lit the candles and we toasted over wine and it was very nice for all of us. SO friends, that started the High Holy Days for me here in Panama. When I finished dinner, I raised my glass of wine and toasted the Rabbi and his family in Panama City and said “next year with you.” And have since told them that!!!!!

Traditional Brisket, Noodle Kugel, Apple/Cranberry Mould

Traditional Brisket, Noodle Kugel, Apple/Cranberry Mould

Fasting after Yom Kippur has always been a big tradition of bagels, lox, fish, herring etc. But this year, there was a Specialty Dinner being held at one of the better restaurants here and it was going to be 12 small plates with wines and entertainment. There was a group of 9 of us who really wanted to go (this was being done by the same Executive Chef that had me for the 6 course meal the month before) and so we all made our reservations for 7PM. It is already dark here in Panama as we do not change the clock here, so that was not a problem for me. I just had some food by 5 to settle in my stomach so I could go and enjoy myself.

Menu La Huaca

Menu La Huaca

Sue, Nick, Phyllis, Rhonda and Gary

Sue, Nick, Phyllis, Rhonda and Gary

Back: Debby,Eric, Linda, Lloyd, Phyllis Front: Sue, Nick, Rhonda, Gary

Back: Debby,Eric, Linda, Lloyd, Phyllis
Front: Sue, Nick, Rhonda, Gary

The food was absolutely wonderful, wines very good and the company exceptionally great. In fact, we were all having so much fun that evening and laughing our heads off that I told everyone that I was having them all for dinner in two weeks!.. Now I knew I was really out of my mind, but I just felt if we could have fun, by golly- that is what we would do. And I had wanted another couple for a long time who knows all of these people, so I called them and included them as well!!!! Where are you going to put 11 people for dinner, Phyllis in that condo?????????

During those two weeks, I had gone to the city a few times on errands, and also, my friend Isabel had her brother George visiting from the states. George is a Chef for the best restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida and we had so much fun while he was here. We introduced him to a few Chef’s here locally and discussed the possibility of him working when he moves back to Panama and George and I even discussed doing something together as well. The problem is that we are all retired or retiring and no one wants to have to work full time anymore. But- the discussions and ideas were lively and now there is always something to think about!!!

Isabel with Brother George at Buenaventura (JW MARRIOTT)

Isabel with Brother George at Buenaventura (JW MARRIOTT)

I finally drove the car to Panama once more, going over the other Bridge this time (Bridge of the Americas) and went to Albrook Mall there. That is as far as I would ever drive into Panama City, but I was more relaxed and although I got turned around a few times, it was an experience. My next jaunt will be to the Airport, and that is going thru the city, so I will have to take a deep breath and just do it one of these days. Can’t be a little wimp forever. And while having fun, this dinner for 11 people is looming and I have to figure out a way to prepare, where to seat everyone – it is not like I have room for even 6 at a dinner table as my table is out on the balcony. I have no table inside- only bar stools at the kitchen counter. So you know I am now challenged. BUT- if you have fun people, you will have a good time no matter what and friends, I no longer worry as I did in Florida. I am here to live a different life, have fun and enjoy and you just do not sweat the small stuff any more. So not worth it!

For my dinner, I had decided to make some appetizers but keep it simple. Well, George (Isabel’s brother) would not let me do that. If I wanted a cheese platter, fine – I usually spruce that up anyway, but he knew I wanted to do something with shrimp and so told me I was to have Pantacones (fried Plaintain patties) with a shrimp scampi on top and they would be passed. Well, I do not make Pantecones, BUT- since I was using Isabel’s housekeeper, Dunia, from here on the beaches, she made them in advance and froze them and all we had to do that night was to fry them up again to make them ready. I did the Shrimp Scampi and she got it all out on platters for passing. Yes, delicious, quite a wonderful treat but never again. My kitchen is small and to have all of this going on when getting ready to put out a dinner, is just too much. BUT- we did it!. I had made Chicken Parmesan (delicious recipe from Leslie Zweben – thank you) and that was prepped the day before and finished the last minute. Pasta and Salad complimented the meal that was served Buffet Style. AND————I managed to get two tables on my balcony with 11 chairs. Could even have squeezed another if it were needed.!!! So I proved it could be done as is always the case. When you really want to do something, just forge ahead. Work it out- it can be done. There are no “NO”S” in life!!!!!! Let’s just all be positive.

I have to tell you that the “peace d’resistance” was dessert. Lloyd Sherman has always said he makes the best New York Style cheesecake and that he was bringing one for dessert.

Lloyd and the leftover Cheesecake

Lloyd and the leftover Cheesecake

Well, Lloyd, you do make the BEST. Everyone knows I do not eat desserts and if I succumb, it is to a New York thick, thick cheesecake, and this was just that. I ate a whole portion!!!!! By now you realize that everyone’s cholesterol the next day went up dramatically – cheese for appetizers, lots of cheese on the Parmesan, and then a huge piece of cheesecake!!!!! I know we cannot do this all of the time, but by-god, we can certainly enjoy once in a while. By now you know, I was truly out of my mind inviting, but when all is said and done, I would do it again, and I will – we all had such a wonderful evening together – a very good mix of people for a marvelous time.

Sue, Nick and Linda

Sue, Nick and Linda

Pana and John Christopher

Pana and John Christopher

The Christopher's, Phyllis and The Fletchers at the end of the meal!

The Christopher’s, Phyllis and The Fletchers at the end of the meal!

Rhonda and Gary

Rhonda and Gary

I have been taking my Spanish lessons, and doing OK, although coming along slowly. I realize that I am older now and the studies don’t come as easy as they once did and learning is on another level. When I have the time to study, I do very well, but it is making myself study daily that is the problem. I am allowing too many things to enter into my world and not committing to a definite time each day. But I will get myself turned around and get into it more. BUT- I am able to converse in the bank, I can go into a store and make my wishes known and I am excellent at asking for discounts on anything and everything and even arguing back as to WHY NOT?????? I will eventually get there as I am committed to myself that I am living in this country and need to know their language. Some of the people (Panamanian) that know me well refuse to talk to me in English anymore. They make me listen and answer them in Spanish. Very hard on me at times, but I appreciate their willingness to help me and that is what they really are doing. They are forcing me to concentrate to be able to answer.

The Ballgames have been fascinating for me and now with my ROKU box, you know I have been watching all of the RAYS games being played. I love them still and feel they have done pretty well under a lot of circumstances (especially no money ball club), but I am proud of them and will see them go as far as they can go. There are nights I have literally turned down dinner invitations as that Ballgame was more important to me. I know, call me a nut, but I love my baseball and besides, look at how relaxing it is to be home and watching in peace and quiet – except for a few calls back and forth to the states. My friend Marion is also a nut and we usually wind up talking a few times during the games when we are angry, or excited. Just like being around the corner – it is so easy to be in touch anywhere these days.

Two of the women I know are starting a Professional Business Meeting Association next month (October) for people in business here, and this should prove to be most interesting. At least we will all get to meet each other, maybe brainstorm and see how we can help one another. I am hoping it goes over and continues as it would be nice for a lot of us. This area is growing and growing every single month and as the new Airport continues to get ready to open next year, lots of new things developing West of me and it is truly fascinating to watch a country grow and expand what they are doing. The Canal itself will be celebrating their 100th Anniversary and to see what is going on with that expansion is amazing!. Guess we can kill Jimmy Carter for ever giving it back, but you would be proud of what it is today and becoming. It will truly be a world class facility and bless Panama for having the foresight to forge ahead.

Well dear friends, another month has flown by so quickly and who knows what the following month will bring. Will certainly keep you in the loop as I start to think about doing a little more sightseeing and getting a bit out of my comfort zone with the car and just go exploring. Until next month- all be well and keep me in the loop with your comings and goings. Love to all…….

PS- There are a few current articles from our local newspaper that I have posted on the front page of the blog – off to the side. You will find them most interesting – all about Panama!

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