I tend to view different ideas, changes of any kind, even introductions to new foods with some reluctance. Who am I trying to kid? I wrote a story not long ago about the first time Hubs took me to a Chinese restaurant. Had to be 35 years ago when we lived in Davenport. As he forcibly moved my feet towards the fancy entrance, I started to cry. Honest. Such a wuss. All because I didn’t want to experience a new food. Maybe reluctance is not quite the right word. Let’s go with-unwilling, hesitant, opposed, unenthusiastic, reserved or disinclined.
|My sister-in-law Mary Jane, with her signature mega watt smile…|
This whole fiasco is my sister-in-law’s fault. Oh, I’m gonna call her out on it too. Right here in bold type. (Sorry, I don’t know how to type bold). Rest assured, I’m pounding the keys much harder than necessary. MARY JANE VAN BERKUM. I do however, know how to ‘capitalize’ in a situation. Ha!
It was mid-February, 2017, our first trip to Yuma. Hubs and I were unwittingly mere pawns in her scheme of things. We were trying to accomplish 2 objectives in one big swoop. Get away for a short respite during Michigan’s worst weather during our 8 month season called winter. But not stay away too long so I wouldn’t miss very many basketball games of Landon’s (Drew to the rest of the world) sophomore season. Part of her mission was to see we were kept occupied with sight seeing, eating out, and learning about an area we knew absolutely nothing about. The desert. Our other objective was a health issue. I had a tooth that needed major repair, plus the rest of my mouth was in need of remodeling. It was ok. Mary Jane knew a guy.
|This is the dentist dude Mary Jane recommended. He was terrific…|
It was her job to cram as many new things into our boring existence. And do this in about 2 weeks. So besides working around some dental appointments in Los Algodones, Mexico, Mary Jane was unfettered in her planning. We were just along for the ride.
One of the places we toured that I haven’t mentioned in my 3 blogs about Yuma, (“The 3:10 to Yuma”, “To Kofa with Les”, and “It’s all about the Name”) was actually near Winterhaven, California. (Hard to find, hard to get there and so bumpy I was fearful of knocking out the new hardware in my mouth). But fascinating. Established when World War ll army guys were training in the desert. They started writing their names, made out of small rocks against the white sands of the desert. They called it, Graffiti Mesa, and the tradition has continued. And grown. This rather odd attraction now covers 1,200 acres. And the rocks have to be hauled in to boot.
|The Valley of Names in the desert…|
Not to be sidetracked and get all warm and fuzzy about our dedicated tour guides, so back to Mary Jane. Part of each day usually included setting for a spell at their winter-haven-home-away-from-home. A glass of wine, or her expertly concocted margaritas, a little down time to reconnect and just shoot the shit for a spell. And she added a bit of stealthy maneuvering before we went out to eat somewhere. New eats. Neese-don’t-do-new-eats. First let me be clear.
|Such an odd sight in the middle of the desert, near Winterhaven Ca…|
1. I’ve never really been a “cracker” girl. Hubs can eat crackers with different sliced cheeses and a hard as a brick salami he sends for via internet, every few days. He’ll make a good sized attractive plate with sliced chunk cheeses, a row of salami slices and oodles of crackers arranged neatly. Walk up to me like an offering plate, and I’ll politely take one or 2 crackers, one slice of cheese and one slice of meat. Done.
|I prefer, “let’s eat cake…”|
2. If offered a dessert tray with a dozen choices, anything with cream cheese-will be my last choice. I just prefer a slice of fruit or cream pie, cake, brownie, or torte to a piece of cheesecake.
|Happy Birthday MJ…|
3. I’m not into spicy foods. Don’t like ‘hot stuff’ though I like my food very hot. I know I’m odd. Doritos are about as spicy hot as I like to go.
Imagine my dismay when Mary Jane hauls out a gorgeous small platter consisting of an entire brick of cream cheese. Looking rather smushed, sadly resembling Iowa snow drifts during a blizzard. But wait! It gets worse. (Sorry Jane) On top of this white mountain is a startling sight. Bright green globs (I must say though, it did have great eye appeal). What, pray tell might this be? Jalapeño Jelly. You’ve got to be kidding me. Oh for cripes sake, just kill me now.
Now go back to the end of my first paragraph. There I was, reluctant, unwilling, hesitant, opposed, unenthusiastic, reserved and disinclined to even try it. Who in the world would eat Jalapeño Jelly? Valiantly trying not to be rude, I picked up my knife and a club cracker and wheedled a speck of cream cheese the size of celery seed and generously smeared it all over the cracker. Taking a deep breath, my knife shakily returns to the massive glob of greenery. I can do this. I am woman. Hear me roar. Or whimper. A tear or 2 might have fallen from my face which was now frozen in a grimace/smile (imagine Jack Nicholson’s face in the Shining or Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight). I sniff, trying to stop my nose from running. Oddly, the odor smells remarkably tasty. WTH. Not so easily fooled, I manage to snag an iota of jalapeño jelly and forcibly will my hand to try and smother the cream cheese. Now I’m not really sure I can go through with this. Meanwhile, Mary Jane is clicking off a dozen sight seeing adventures that have been added to tomorrow’s agenda and seems not to notice my rendition of, I’m really, truly suffering here at the wailing wall.
|Club cracker, cream cheese and jalapeño jelly. Absurd…|
Biting off a minutely small crumb, my mouth explodes with tingly sweet spicy-ness. While the Jalapeño jelly is quite sweet, the cream cheese off centers it from tasting too sweet. The cracker part adds a bit of salty crunch. Goodness, I’ve discovered God’s favorite appetizers now served in heaven. Greedily, I glop on a silver dollar size of cream cheese which is now dwarfed by the Oreo Double Stuff sized placing of jalapeño jelly. No one seems to take notice that half of the platter is now missing, they’re busy deciding what time we need to meet up in the morning. I will not be among the tourists however. I am not leaving this table until there is not another smidge of jalapeño jelly left in this house.
And just that quick.
I. Am. Addicted.
It’s all Mary Jane’s fault.
After we return to Michigan and the reality of work and winter, my nights are filled with dreams of Jalapeño Jelly. I searched every grocery store, even bought a jar I spotted, but it didn’t taste the same at all. I have to go back to Yuma for some green stuff. Right now. Heck with my teeth, warm weather and relatives. Mary Jane buys it from a gal when she goes to a flea market in Yuma every winter. How can I afford a ton, plus shipping it to my house? Hubs calmly gives my shoulders a little shake. “Get a grip. Look up the freaking recipe and learn how to can it yourself. Duh. It’s what you do with everything else. You’ve got to get out from under this jelly’s spell. You cannot pine for an entire year about jelly.” Reality returned.
|Yes it’s very possibly the best appetizer. Ever…|
The recipe was foreboding. You have to use a food processor (I don’t own one) and as far as jellies and jams go, it’s made completely the opposite of any jelly I’ve ever made. I borrowed Shannon’s food processor, bought 2 dozen jalapeños, cider vinegar, liquid pectin (I prefer powdered, but this crazy recipe was adamant) sugar and green food coloring. That’s it.
|The expression I wear before trying something new…|
The nightmares have stopped. Had the Hubs buy a small locking safe, hidden somewhere safe and secure. My 2 dozen jar stash have calmed my fears and I’ve returned to my former somewhat normal existence. For now. God help me if I can’t one day find that little basket of fresh jalapeños in Meijer produce department. All bets are off…