Back in December, I called my grandmother, Ruth Mueller of Ross, for a little Sunday afternoon chitchat. My kids were playing happily and all was calm on the home front, so I figured it was a good time to call.
When Gram answered the phone, she croaked out a raspy "Hello?"
"Hi, Gram, are you sick?" I asked, concerned.
"Oh, no, I was watching the Steelers," she mumbled sheepishly.
Aha -- caught in the act! My 86-year-old grandmother had been hollering at the TV.
That's what I get for being the only Pittsburgher in history who is completely ignorant of football. I didn't even register the fact that the Steelers were playing that day -- and of course, if they were playing, Gram was watching, so it most definitely was not a good time for a phone call.
I don't know how my genetics have permitted me to be so desperately oblivious. My great-grandmother used to watch the Steelers, although I haven't heard whether she hollered at the TV. My grandmother watches the games and hollers at the TV. My mom watches the games and hollers at the TV. When I was a kid, I could stand pretty far out in the yard and still hear Mom whooping inside the house. Sometimes Mom even leaped off the couch, flinging aside the afghan, and jumped up and down while she screeched.
And then there's me. I'm pretty sure I can name two current Steelers but positive I can't name three. I can't remember the last time I actually watched them play on TV, but I think it's been at least a decade. I'm a festering boil on the family honor.
Oh well, I might be oblivious, but at least I've paid enough attention to know that the Steelers aren't playing this Sunday, so maybe it's an OK time to make phone calls to all the family. They'll probably watch the Super Bowl but won't really have anything seriously invested in it. Unless they're all tuned in rooting for the 49ers not to tie the Steelers' Super Bowl wins record (my husband had to clue me in that this was a possibility). But that's a dirt-poor reason to cheer at a football game.
To me, the food is a much better reason to "watch" the Super Bowl -- or ignore it from the kitchen. And I'm thinking Sunday would be a great time to serve Kicked Up Guacamole with Lump Crab Meat (see recipe). It's got San Francisco flavors (the avocados), Baltimore influence (the crab meat) and a football-related name ("kicked" -- get it?).
Meanwhile, if you're not much of a football fan, maybe your sights are already on Valentine's Day. If so, here are a couple of events for you:
Aphrodisiac Wine & Cooking Class: Four-course tasting menu (including oysters, arugula and prosciutto salad, mussels and clams with fennel truffle aioli, and chocolate ravioli) with wine pairings. 6 p.m. Wednesday at Osteria 2350, Strip District. $50 per person. Reservations: 412-281-3090.
Valentine's Day Wine Dinner: BBQ braised rabbit croquette, Alaskan king crab, foie gras, lamb loin, sea scallops, octopus ragu, pistachio crusted elk and orange mascarpone crepes with wine pairings, plus a tour of a special Museum of Art exhibit. 6 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Carnegie Museum Cafe, Oakland. $122 per person. Reservations: 412-622-3288.
Winterfest: An expansive bar made of fresh snow and ice will feature adult and nonalcoholic beverages. Other activities include ice carving demos, live radio shows, a Joe Grushecky concert, Polar Bear Golf Classic, Polar Bear Plunge (a chilly dip in the pond in a wacky costume), and a race in which skiers hold full beer steins in their hands (and try to get the beer to the bottom unspilled). Feb. 8-10 at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, Farmington. nemacolin.com.
Mardi Gras Celebration: Gumbo, jambalaya, king cake, coffee and donuts, beads and prizes. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 9 at McGinnis Sisters, Monroeville.
Beer tasting dinner: CISV Pittsburgh (Children's International Summer Villages) hosts a beer-tasting dinner; teens ages 13 and up can attend with their parents for a pizza party. 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at Sharp Edge Beer Emporium in Friendship. $60 for adults; $10 for teens. Reservations: 412-606-6433. Information: pitt.cisvusa.org.
Through Wednesday, North Hills Community Outreach is taking orders for grapefruit, oranges, tangerines and pears from Florida and California. Fruit can be picked up on March 2 and 3. The sale raises funds for the organization's programs that assist local families in crisis. Order online at nhco.org/fruit.cfm or call 412-307-0069.
Chef Matt's cooking class: Watch the chef demonstrate bone marrow bisque and braised lamb shank; then stay to enjoy his demo foods for dinner. 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Bridge Ten Brasserie, South Side. $50 per person. Reservations required: 412-586-5033.
Kicked Up Guacamole with Lump Crab meat
I omitted the jicama because my family doesn't like it and the cayenne because I was serving children. I also left out some of the veggies to garnish the top of the bowl rather than stirring them all in.
-- Rebecca Sodergren
3 large, ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup minced cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup minced red onions
1/2 cup finely chopped seeded tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh jicama
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound lump crab meat, picked over to remove shells and cartilage
Tortilla chips, for dipping
In a large bowl, place all but 1/4 cup of the avocado pieces. Add 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, 1 teaspoon of the jalapeno, 1/2 teaspoon of the cumin, 1/4 teaspoon of the garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and a pinch of cayenne, and mash with the back of a fork until smooth. Add 1/4 cup of the onions, 1/4 cup of the tomatoes and 1/4 cup of the jicama to the avocado mixture, and stir well to combine.
In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients with the crab meat and gently toss to combine. Fold the crab meat mixture into the mashed avocado mixture, stirring to combine, but being careful not to break up the crab meat. Season to taste. Serve with tortilla chips.
-- Emeril Lagasse, foodnetwork.com
Rebecca Sodergren: firstname.lastname@example.org.