Sunday, March 09, 2014
Again, you guys are getting the uncut version:
Thai women are a force of nature. Just ask my husband. His ex is one. (She’s actually quite lovely and leaves us alone, but she was rough on servants and … well … that’s another story. …) The stereotype that Thai women have sweet manners, love to care for their family, and meekly follow their husband’s wishes is pretty much just that. After all, there are tales of Thai warrior queens riding to battle atop elephants, and their pride and determination are legend. Thai women generally know how to make their own way in the world.
Nan, chef-owner of Port Charlotte’s Asian Market and Café, was born in Thailand, not to a stay-at-home mom, but to a coconut plantation owner who was cheeky enough to bear her husband eight daughters, no sons. She sent Nan, the youngest, to Bangkok at age ten, to live with a sister who owned a restaurant.
“It was a street of storefronts, this house a salon, that house a market, this house a shop, her house a restaurant. No signs, just everybody knows where the restaurant is,” explained Nan. She’d come home from school and do chores around the place.
“They didn’t let me in the kitchen right away. I kept watching—What you doing? I want to do that! The restaurant got in my blood, you know?”
Like Nan, many Thai girls come and go on work visas. On one of her trips to the states, after a 6-month courtship, she wed, to become Nan MacFarland. Was Nan a meek follower of her American husband? When it became clear that he had that in mind, Nan divorced him and began pursuing her own dream.
Nan worked for ten years at local Asian restaurants—Thai Café, Royal Thai, Rice House—to save up enough to open an Asian market here.
“For seven years, we were just an Asian grocery store with a couple tables. But because cooking was in my blood, I had to do a restaurant.” About a year ago, she shrank the grocery store side and grew the dining area. Now her café is the #2 rated restaurant in Port Charlotte on TripAdvisor.com.
A big, cheerful space with lime and orange walls, stuffed and gilded elephant wall hangings, and portraits of the Thai royal family, the place is always packed.
“I do all the cooking,” Nan glows, squaring her shoulders with pride. “The dumplings don’t come from a freezer bag. I make them fresh myself every day.”
Do you know how to even START making a Thai dumpling? If you’ve ever tried making spring rolls, like I have, they probably ended up like lumpy, see-through cigars. Hey, maybe we should take one of Nan’s classes! After season, she teaches step-by-step Thai cooking classes in the dining room. “Afterwards, my students’ friends compliment them on how good they cook Thai.”
Now Nan is passing on the family heritage to son “Beam” and niece Pat. When you gonna let them in the kitchen, Nan?
“I tell them they have to learn with really hard work, cleaning, then cooking. If you don’t love it, you won’t pass!” Her determination and drive won’t let her take a day off even for herself just yet.
And there is a caretaking side to Nan, too. “If people like my food, I’m proud.”
They do, and she should be.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
My SP friend Umami had trouble posting a link to this song (see her blog), so I thought I'd see if a YouTube link worked, which it seems to. Cute little upbeat song, too, especially if you're stuck in the winter doldrums.
Sunday, March 02, 2014
Oh hell, I'm gonna share my unedited story with you guys, because my editor mucked up the ending of it. You can take me unedited, I think.
Picture a screwball comedy with a family making fireworks in the basement while all holy Toledo breaks out upstairs and the hero lopes about with a pet leopard on a leash. Now put all that on Lemon Bay, and you get the zany energy and family feeling of Zeke’s Bayside Bar & Grill at Englewood’s Royal Palm Marina.
“Yeah, we’re one big crazy happy family,” sparkles Denise Trent-Morrow, who holds down the Ship’s Store. “You know how Zeke’s got its name? Not from Zeke. We had a contest!”
Here’s a typical day. The marina’s resident cat, Snook, pitches overboard in pursuit of a gecko. This launches an all-hands-on-deck search. Normally boaters and Zeke’s regulars ask, “Hey, where’s Snook?” but this normal request took on some urgency when they couldn’t see him, only hear him meowing every time he bobbed and scrabbled to the surface all along the length of the seawall. When Snook fetched up four hours later, like a (forgive the metaphor) drowned cat in the marina basin, Billy and mechanics Rudy and Tom tried in vain to fish the 25-pound boy out with a strap.
“C’mon, kid, I’ll hold your ankles and you haul him outta there!”
For a while those who inquired after Snook were told, “He’s under house arrest in the office, until his pads heal.”
Though a cat appears to have owned Zeke’s since day 1, nice dogs are still welcome at the five-year-old dockside restaurant.
Server Rick Krizen, a craggy young man wearing tattoos, piercings, and a winning grin, dabbles so well in cookery that he won first prize in the February 1st Englewood Chili Cookoff. “My secret ingredients were cinnamon and beer.” In his spare time, Rick and his brother Ryan have an offshore racing team, Knot Krazy, planning to run in Englewood’s Grand Prix come April. The whole Royal Palm family are proud as pelicans and trolling for sponsors.
“Big Dale,” the owner, is always working the kitchen—housed in a trailer that’s an alley away from the dining room. From the trailer he passes perfectly plated meals out a window to Rick, Rob, or “D3,” Dale’s son, the manager.
Texas native Mike Maloney moved back to Southwest Florida a year and a half ago. Says Mike, “I decided to put my boat in this marina because it still feels like Old Florida back here.”
Mike Maloney knows. The original marina, Lemon Bay, was built fifty years ago on his own land, much of it with his own hands, by Englewood legend Don Platt. What is now Zeke’s was originally an ice house.
Don’s marina and land can still be reached only by a winding series of roads that dead-end on Lemon Bay. Crank up that GPS. The farther you drive to get there, the farther back you’ll feel like you’re traveling into Englewood’s past. Then there you are, at the end, with a “Tiki Bar” sign reassuring you that indeed there’s a bar-restaurant back here with live music thumping five nights a week.
Fine diners might find it incongruous to get presentations like Timbale au Tarteau at picnic tables in the shadow of marine diesel fuel pumps, but hey, can you spell “M-A-R-I-N-A,” ladies and gents? Where you’ll find the jingling of boat tackle and a sunset on Lemon Bay? Plus a whole lot of crazy positive energy.
If Don Platt were still here, he’d be in that trailer smoking up mullet for everybody.
IF YOU GO
Where: Zeke’s Bayside Bar & Grill at Royal Palm Marina, 779 W. Wentworth St., Englewood
When: Monday to Wednesday, 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday to Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Sunday, 12 noon to 8:30 p.m.
More info: 941-475-6882
Saturday, February 22, 2014
You all might have noticed that I lost my old SAT and ordered another one, which arrived this week. But I was without one for about ten days.
Just today, I went back into my records to total up my estimated mileage for those ten days. As I flipped through the data, I saw two SAT notifications of "19 minutes Unspecified Event, 2:09 AM" (19 minutes, 440 steps, .2 mile) and "28 minutes Unspecified Event, 11:07 PM" (28 minutes, 642 steps, .26 mile). This would be a ridiculously slow pace even if I had been awake at those hours. And, of course, I didn't HAVE my Spark Activity Tracker at the time!
And yet, on those dates, it was apparently passing within 50 feet of its sync point, on my laptop, in my house.
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