Happy June!

June is, of course, Pride Month. Here at MonDAVEs we recognize and support our siblings in the LGBTQ+ community. More on this in a future post.

What is less known, however, is that June is also Candy month. Skittles has ingeniously combined these two occasions for years, often being cited as the “gayest candy” due to the whole rainbow thing. Well, we won’t be getting into that debate, but let’s discuss another candy that is a worldwide favorite: Cotton Candy.

While it is not known exactly where Cotton Candy falls in the ranking of gay candies (it’s gotta be up there, right?) it is a candy that has brought enjoyment to many a child and adult at baseball games and state fairs for years. As previously mentioned, this is not just an American phenomenon as Cotton Candy has its origins in China. A version of this sugary treat was said to have been made during the Han Dynasty, somewhere between 206-220 AD. The original name for this candy was “Dragon’s Beard” which is 100% more badass than anything it has been called since.

Speaking of, what we know as Cotton Candy here in the U.S.A. goes by many different names throughout the rest of the world. The following is a list of my favorites.

-Candyfloss (popular throughout most of Europe)
-Sugar Spin (Norwegian for Candy-Floss spelled with a hyphen because it’s fancy I guess)
-Sockervadd (Sweden)
-Wata Cukrowa (Polish for Sugar Cotton, which is probably the most accurate)
-Fairy Floss (Australia)
-Hattara (Finnish for Small Cloud)
-Dad’s Beard (France, which is weird)
-Grandma’s Hair (Greece, which is weirder)

Okay, so most of these are cute and fluffy names, but what’s with the hair comparisons, y’all? Sure, of all the candies it’s probably the most hair-like, but still, why? Why with this? Ew.

Anyway, now that summer is upon us, you’re sure to see this sweet treat sooner or later, and hey, no judgement if you get yourself a big bag of colorful sugary goodness and chow down. Just know that when you do you’ll remember this post and start thinking about your family member’s heads as you eat and then you’ll get all disgusted and throw it away, BUT before you get all mad at MonDAVEs for making you waste that money think about how much sugar is actually in that bag and how it’s obviously super hot outside and besides, who knows, tossing that bag aside might have just prevented a heart attack thus saving your life so you’re welcome.

Dave’s Take On Kansas City

Our quick trip to Kansas City proved to be a nice little getaway/diversion for our family. While it would have been nice to have a little more time to explore, we enjoyed the time spent in the city. Compared to downtown St. Louis, it is a much cleaner city-not that STL is unclean, but it’s slightly more…not run down, but…used? Older, maybe? At least on the surface it seems that way. I love STL immensely, but we have our problems for sure. KC seems to be a bit more user friendly is all.

The downtown neighborhoods we drove through seemed nice. I also liked that the college seemed to be well integrated into the city landscape. It is a very hill-y city though. Well, the Missouri side is anyway. The Kansas side seemed to flatten out a bit.

Speaking of Kansas, that’s where we stayed. We looked at several hotels and wound up booking one in the suburbs, because it had an indoor pool for the kids. If there’s one thing that kids love while on vacation, it’s a pool. Our hotel of choice was the Homewood Suites by Hilton. Apart from the pool situation, it had rooms that would sleep the five of us comfortably (in one suite as opposed to two rooms-more economical), and had a full breakfast each morning. Very nice hotel, and clean, highly recommended.

Our hotel was in the suburbs, but located just a stones throw from the Kansas Speedway which was of course closed, but looked pretty cool. We were also next to Legends Outlet mall, which had like a bazillion stores in it. There seem to be quite a few functional malls in the area, while most of them are dying out here. To be fair, we didn’t really visit any of them, but they looked to be in good shape.

Okay, so there’s your initial impressions, let’s get to the attractions.

LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER
-I’m kind of mixed on this one. Their website makes it seem like it is an attraction for all ages, and while that’s not untrue, it’s really geared more to smaller kids. I think if our kids were two or three years younger they would have absolutely loved it. Don’t get me wrong, it is enjoyable enough. There were some really interesting exhibits of Lego art, and multiple life size figures which were pretty cool, as well as a Lego replica of the downtown KC area itself, and a trip through the Wizard of OZ movie in Lego form. Of the two rides, one was definitely a child’s ride, but the other was a “dark ride” in which you got to blast stuff with a pretend gun and try to save the Princess. We all enjoyed that ride, but WHY SO MANY LEGO SPIDERS? Seriously, they should warn a person! Let’s see, what else…oh, there was a “Ninjago Training course” which I probably got the worst score ever on, and a cute little 3D movie theater. Oh, and an obviously overpriced snack bar that we didn’t go anywhere near. So, there was enough to keep us all entertained, and we did enjoy the experience, but it is aimed at young children (3-8) overall, so keep that in mind if you ever visit.

SEALIFE AQUARIUM
-Right next door to the Discovery Center is the Sealife aquarium which is exactly what you think it is. I always enjoy aquariums. Maybe it takes a certain kind of person, I don’t know, but I could sit and watch fish swim and interact with each other for hours and not get bored. This particular aquarium is nice and puts a little more emphasis on education than some that I have been to, but is not as impressive overall as Ripley’s in Gatlinburg, TN, or the St. Louis aquarium at Union Station, which is REALLY good. That being said, I would recommend Sealife as a quality stop for your next visit to Kansas City.

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MINIATURES AND TOYS
-This was the coolest thing we did, hand down. The museum’s first floor is dedicated to fine scale miniatures, usually 1:12 scale. What I thought was going to be just a bunch of doll house furniture wound up being so much more interesting than I imagined. Pretty much anything you can think of is on display in miniature, and the detail is AMAZING. From Victorian mansions to an antique shop, artist studios and more, the scenes are incredible. Not only are the settings impressive, but the detail involved is doubly so. There are hand woven quilts and rugs in these displays, and objects you would swear have been hit by some futuristic shrink ray. Then the upstairs is full of toys from the early 1900s up to today, everything from board games to video consoles, rag dolls to action figures, teddy bears and more. There is something there to bring out the kid in everyone. I absolutely loved it.

Now let’s talk food. Of course, you can’t go to Kansas City without getting some barbecue. I couldn’t get everyone to agree to BBQ for every meal, but I didn’t really think that would fly anyway. Apart from breakfast at the hotel, we ate at Zaxby’s for one lunch because we don’t have them in St. Louis and I like them a lot-way better than Cane’s which we have a lot of around here. We also went to a Tex-Mex restaurant called On The Border which we had a gift card for somehow (?), and since those aren’t in STL either we went ahead and used it. Pretty good actually, I kind of wish we did have them here.

But I digress. The first barbecue restaurant we went to was Famous Dave’s, which I had heard of but didn’t know was a chain. I also didn’t know we had a to-go only location minutes away from where I work until I just googled that info a minute ago. I wanted to see how big a chain they were-and the answer to that is pretty dang big-when I saw a Creve Coeur location I’d never heard of or seen. I can only assume it’s very, very new. Or I need to pay more attention to my life.

ANYWAY, had I known it was a chain I might have opted for something else, since I wanted true KC barbecue. I was not disappointed however, because the food was really good-their burnt ends were excellent, as was the chicken. So, if you’re out and about and you find yourself near a Famous Dave’s, check ’em out. I’ve had better from independent BBQ joints, but this still hit the spot and was quite yummy.

Before we left town, we HAD to go to Gate’s Barbecue and get some ribs. They are famous as some of the best ribs you can get, and I have had many people bring them back for me, and they were always awesome, so it was a no brainer that we should go.

The thing is, nobody warned me about the actual Gate’s experience. As soon as you walk in to the much too dark restaurant, the counter person basically assaults you by shouting “Hi may I help you?”, and you are expected to order immediately. It took me by surprise. That approach works when there is a long line of people, and you are five orders away from the front of the line. You order, and by the time you get to the front your food is ready. I getit, but I don’t like it. Especially since it was our first time in and we had no idea what was happening. There was one group ahead of us and two behind. The lady up front just kept yelling “Hi may I help you” and no one knew who she was talking to. I found it to be abrasive, high pressure, and a little rude, honestly.

Again, I get that they are trying to assembly line your food, and I can see how that would work on a crowded day, but it was just bizarre to me. I know some people like that sort of thing. There are some small restaurants (and at least one chain) that are famous for treating people that way, or worse. Some people think it’s fun, and adds character. I don’t agree.

Oh, and then, to top it off, there is another lady who basically acts like a waitress and takes care of everyone at your table after you sit down. WHAT is that about? Also, why isn’t she bringing the food? I mean, she was super sweet and cool, I guess to make up for the initial abuse? Whatever.

You lost me, Gates, I don’t care for the way you run your business. To be fair the ribs are absolutely amazing, some of the best you’ll ever have, but I don’t think any food is worth that type of treatment. There were at least four other places I could have gone, and probably had a better experience. I know Gate’s has its fans, and if you dig that atmosphere then more power to you, have at it, but I won’t be joining you.

Still, all in all, we did have a nice trip. There is a lot more to see and do than we had time for this trip, so another visit to Kansas City may be in the cards for a later date. In any case, this trip was about getting away as a family and having new experiences together. It was as much about bonding as anything else, and that we surely did. We are blessed that not only do we all get along well and love each other, but we like each other too, which makes any time together good, and our family trips even more so.

Thanks for reading, see you next week.

And No, Crystal Burgers Are NOT The Same. Don’t Even Joke About A Thing Like That.

They just closed my local White Castle and I am NOT OKAY.

White Castle has always been a favorite of mine, and I have eaten them since I was a child. My family would get them on a fairly regular basis for lunch or dinner. I ate many a meal there as a young man as well, during my “young and broke” phase. At that time you could go in with two dollars and eat like a king. Now it’s more like five dollars, but still. As much as I like fancy dinners and good home cooking, White Castle provides true comfort food that is always there when needed.

I know some people don’t like White Castle, and it is admittedly an acquired taste. There can also be a few unpleasant side effects at first, but once you build up a tolerance it’s really no big deal. For those who have problems in this area after several visits, I recommend the chicken rings or chicken with cheese sandwich. They have also added breakfast a few years back, and I gotta say the bacon sandwiches are legit! All are still yummy, but not nearly as full force as the White Castle burger.

Ah yes, the burger. The slider. The belly bomber (or gutbombs as my family and friends have always called them) is a true American classic. Though one can certainly dress it up with condiments or a variety of cheeses it is perfection in and of itself. Beef patty (small, square, holes in the middle for…something), onions and pickles. Basic, simple, beautiful. You don’t even need to eat the pickles, (I take them off, myself), but you have to get your burgers with the pickles cooked on or they just don’t taste right. Yet taste right they most certainly do, especially after midnight following a good night out.

They also make a great party food. Next time you have or are invited to a gathering of seven or more people, order up a Crave Case. Some people will hem and haw about it saying ridiculous things like “Oh, I can’t eat those things…” or “Oh, no, the smell alone, just…” or whatever nonsense they think will make them look good. I guarantee you the case will be gone by the end of whatever it is you are doing.

This brings to mind a story which may help illustrate how much White Castle means to me and how intertwined it is with my life.

After my mother died, there was a get together. It has recently been brought to my attention that it was a sort of funeral “after party”, for lack of a better description, but I always thought this took place during the Summer, and Mom passed in early Fall. But I digress.

Anyway, there were a lot of people there, and, as tends to happen, a lot of drink. Now there’s one thing that happens at every party when people begin drinking heavily-they get hungry. At this point, there are only two options: you order pizza or go get White Castle. Naturally, we all chose the latter.

A collection was taken up, and the money presented to myself and my best friend Tim. It was decided that we should be the ones to go get the White Castles, since we were obviously the most sober. We weren’t anywhere near sober, not even on the same street, but that just shows you how well everyone else was doing. My Dad commissioned us by handing me money and saying “Here’s eighty dollars-go get us some gutbombs.” With a clear mission (if not clear heads) and the sacred trust of everyone in attendance, we began our quest.

I decided to pull up to the drive-thru, since walking seemed to be a little bit perilous. Here’s how that convo went down.

WHITE CASTLE LADY: Welcome to White Castle can I take your order?
ME: Yeah, I need eighty dollars worth of burgers.
WCL: (slight pause) A hundred of ’em will be seventy eight ninety three.
ME: Okay, gimme that…and a small diet coke.
WCL: Come around.

We pulled up to the window after waiting for the cars in front, because late night is always packed, and I handed her my money, plus a few extra cents for tax. She handed me my Diet Coke, and then got a look of concentration on her face. She studied the size of the monster box of burgers building up behind her, and then the size of the relatively small window they were supposed to be passed through. “Y’all gonna have to come inside.”

So we parked the car in a space (kind of) and went in. I dutifully sipped my Diet Coke and we both did our best to hold up the walls by leaning on them. For support. The box was soon filled. Tim carried them back to the car, since I was driving and already had a Diet Coke in my hand. I think we put them in the trunk, but maybe they were in the back seat. I don’t remember which, but I do know my Dodge Shadow smelled like Castles for like a week.

Upon returning to the party, the box was demolished in record time. Somebody had the nerve to ask if we’d actually spent all the money or if we’d pinched some off the top, but I spent it all and then a little more. So I could get my Diet Coke. The reason the burgers were gone so fast was not because we shorted anyone on supply, but because White Castles are just THAT GOOD. I also firmly believe they are a vital source of nutrients to the inebriated party goer, but official tests have remained inconclusive.

So as you can see, White Castle and I have a long history together. When I became a father, one of the things I couldn’t wait to do was introduce my kids to the pleasures of White Castle. My wife isn’t exactly a fan, but I don’t blame her. It’s my fault, I go to her late. The kids have mostly taken to them, though the boy just eats the chicken and the eldest daughter was a little slow to come around.

However, my youngest daughter loved them right away. Daddy’s girl, she is. In fact, one of the things we like to do is to get Castle burgers together whenever the two of us are out and about on our own. Sometimes we let the others come with, but it’s a bond we share, being the two in our family unit who really love the burgers.

And now, our neighborhood White Castle is gone. I haven’t told her yet. These conversations are tough and need to be handled gently.

But just how the heck am I supposed to tell her that our spot no longer exists? And where the heck are we supposed to go when we crave that special taste?

Probably to the one that’s down the way a bit. I mean, there are still two more within driving distance, but it’s not the same. Most of my life I have had a White Castle within about a 5-10 minute drive. I am now looking at nineteen. Okay, so maybe that makes the trip more special, but it’s harder to just pick up a sack of ten on my way home, or to get WC for me and youngest, while everybody else gets whatever inferior thing they choose.

Without my neighborhood Castle I feel a little lost and out of place. It is a dark day indeed, but as a proud, longstanding member of Craver Nation I will rise above this turn of events. For White Castle isn’t just food, it is a way of life. It is a cherished gift to man from the Heavens above.

This I promise: I shall overcome this obstacle, and once more feast upon the very food of Olympus itself!!!

And a small Diet Coke.

Thinking About the New Year

Well, the Holiday Season is officially over. Another Christmas and New Year’s Eve are in the books. The decorations have all come down (well, most of them, anyway), and we’re heading into the heart of Winter. This time of year always brings me down a little bit. Partially because I love the Holidays so much and hate to see them end, but also because I am no fan of the cold, darkness, and weather conditions that Old Man Winter brings with him. Granted, this December has been unseasonably warm here in the St. Louis area, but Winter announced its arrival over the weekend and, judging from the impending forecast, intends on making up for some lost time.

I’ve often wondered why we chose January to begin the new year. I mean, obviously it had a lot to do with the harvest season and all, but it’s just interesting to me that the year begins when it does. Why now? Why not like, I don’t know, April, when things are starting to get warm and brighten up? Why doesn’t the year begin in Spring? It seems to me like it might have been better, especially 2000 plus years ago when life was extremely hard during the Winter, to finish the year during the cold period and begin fresh when nature itself does.

But then, perhaps there’s a reason why we choose to begin the New Year during these cold months. It’s a good time to stay indoors, warm ourselves with a fire, a good hearty meal, and our beverage of choice, and reflect.

We can reflect on the year that has just passed us by, both the good and the bad parts of it, from both the perspective of society at large and our from own personal feelings. What were the big successes we had this year? What could have gone better? What did we learn and, more importantly, will we ever learn?

It’s also a good time to think about the future. What concrete plans can we make for the next few months? What are our desires? What dreams can we begin to chase, and what needs to remain a dream, at least for a little while longer?

This is the proper mindset for making any “New Year’s Resolutions” that so many are fond of doing. The trouble is that most of us make a small list of resolutions half heartedly out of a feeling of obligation but we don’t take them very seriously. We may go after them for a few weeks, but then it’s right back to where we were on Dec. 31st. I think the problem is we set unrealistic goals with no real forethought of how we are going to attain them or what it would take to do so. Nor do we consider what it would actually mean to our lives if we did. Therefore we are content to make ourselves feel better for a short period of time, and then shrug it off when things don’t work out because they were “just silly resolutions” anyway.

I’ve never liked making New Year’s resolutions. I think it’s that word, “resolution”, it’s so serious and intimidating. Resolving to do something is like a promise or an oath you make to others and yourself, and it’s not something one should take lightly. Especially if you’re not going to put in the effort to make it happen. For the record, I feel the same way when a business or organization I am involved in talks about “vision casting.” I don’t like that phrase either, it makes my neck itch.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s good to think about the future. It’s good to make plans, to set goals. It’s good to want to become a better person. I’m just not so sure that being obliged to do so just because it’s January is the way to go about it.

However, since most people I know are doing the whole “New Year’s Resolutions” thing, I figured I’d go ahead and play along. Well, to an extent. I am not going to write a list of things I resolve to do in the next year. I am merely going to list a few things that would be nice to accomplish, and I will try and work in that direction. See? No pressure. No obligations. No itchy neck. Here we go.

-I would like to read more. I enjoy reading, both fiction and non-fiction, and I fully understand the importance of reading and how it enriches my life. I just don’t do it enough. It’s not due to any lack of availability. My entire family are readers and there are books everywhere in this house. Part of my problem is that I get distracted doing other things and don’t carve out the time to read like I ought to. The other problem is that when I am done reading an interesting book I need to live with it for awhile. With non-fiction books I tend to ruminate on what I have learned, be it a life lesson or just some neat little trivia. But with fiction books, I am usually reluctant to leave the world it has created for me and I want to stay with those characters I have grown to love just a little bit longer. As a result I don’t read very many books in a year, which is okay. Quality over quantity, right? But I do have room for more.

-I’d like to get my weight down a little bit. I have had an issue with my weight all my life and have never been what you’d call thin, but there’s a weight range I am comfortable with and I am currently not within it. Some of this is due to medications, but with a little more effort I can get closer to that place. I was actually doing a little better a few weeks back but I let myself go over the Holidays. Time to get back on track, methinks.

-I’d like to get outside more. You know, when it’s not cold. I need to go on longer walks. Get some more sun. See some more nature. Maybe travel more, schedule and COVID permitting.

-I’d like to focus more on my beliefs. That includes my faith, and social justice issues. Being a Christian and a Liberal is the hardest thing I do. But it shouldn’t be, since I believe that “Progressive Christianity” isn’t an oxymoron. If I begin putting faith into action, I think it could go from difficult to rewarding. I just need to do it one step at a time. Like this.

-I’d like to create more. Sure, I have this blog, but there’s more I could be doing. I have the desire and the ideas, I have just become complacent and, frankly, a little discouraged over the years. Maybe a little nervous too. Let’s face it though, I’m not getting any younger and even though I may be a little too old to set the world on fire, that’s not an excuse to not try. Connecting with people through entertainment is my favorite thing. That’s why I do this. I just need to do more, and maybe mix in some different stuff too.

Okay, that got a little more serious than I thought it would. There’s some good ideas there, though, and some nice goals to work towards. Okay, my neck did itch a little. Maybe it’s my shirt.

Anyway, see you next week.

An Open Letter

Dear Sandwich Makers of America,

First of all, let me thank you all for what you do. Designing and making quality sandwiches is a noble endeavor. From the local delicatessen to the neighborhood caf├ęs, restaurants, diners and high class eateries of the country, your quest to fill our palates with a perfectly balanced bite of perfection has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Sure, any one of us could whip up some cold cuts and American cheese on Wonder bread or a quick peanut butter and jelly in our own homes, but to pay six to eight dollars to have it done for us by artists such as yourselves is a decadent luxury and culinary treat that is a treasured, joyous delight for all red blooded American diners.

I know that you, the Sandwich Makers, are always looking for ways to better yourselves, improve the quality of your work, and push the envelope of what you do in hopes of making the “perfect” sandwich. The endless experimentation, tweaking, and testing of flavor combinations with fillings and condiments is of course necessary to the process of the pursuit of excellence and American Exceptionalism that makes this country what it is.

However, I fear that it may be going too far. In your desire to improve our sandwiches and “bring in the new”, we are beginning to lose sight of what made certain sandwiches so special in the first place. You have lost touch with your roots and are in danger of losing the soul of what we sandwich lovers hold so dear. We are in great danger of losing the classics.

I am speaking, of course, of the Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwich, commonly known as the BLT. This fine sandwich has been around since the early 1900s, and owes its staying power to the fact that it is, quite simply, a perfect combination of ingredients and flavors.

Bacon. Lettuce. Tomato. White Bread. Mayo.

That’s it.

QUIT MESSING IT UP!!!!

The only alterations to be considered here are a.) Do we toast the bread? (Yes.), and b.) Could it use more bacon? (It could). If you wanna go nuts, make it a double decker, stick some toothpicks in it and call it a “club”. Outside of that, leave the thing alone! It’s basic, simple, and beautiful. It doesn’t need avocado. Or special sauce. Or Kale. Or greens.

Also, stop subbing out the bacon. Turkey bacon is an abomination of all that is good and holy in the meat section of the grocery store. And don’t even come at me with artificial vegetarian or vegan bacon. What even is that? Tofu?! Really?

If you don’t like the sandwich as is, fine. Don’t eat it. But don’t go changing it, trying to put your “spin ” on it, and ruining what is one of the greatest culinary delights of many generations, the almighty BLT!

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of “new and improved” sandwiches-quit screwing around with the grilled cheese too, willya? There’s nothing worse than going to some fancy bistro and having the waiter tell you about their “take” on the grilled cheese sandwich.

Here’s my “take” on it-leave it alone! It doesn’t need any meat in it. Or vegetables. Or tofu either, but then, what does? All we need is cheese. Good old American cheese, or maybe Velveeta, is fine. It does the job and it tastes the way that it’s supposed to. Okay, so a five cheese blend is nice, but it’s unnecessary. All that extra stuff is unnecessary. This is not gourmet dining, I am shoving a block of melted cheese on bread into my face, let’s not pretend it’s anything more evolved than that, okay?

And give me some tomato soup on the side too. That’s soup. Not bisque. You can’t dunk Velveeta in bisque, it’s unnatural and weird.

Look, I’m perfectly fine with you all making up new sandwich combos and creating new sauces. Put anything you want on there. Veggie sandwich? Great. Steak and sauerkraut? Fine. Peanut butter and pickle? You do you. But leave the classics alone. For me. For the children.

For America.

Your pal,

Dave