Auld Lang Syne Again

You made it. You survived the holidays another year, which also means you survived another trip around the sun. A new year…! Technically, this is the last day to wish anyone such a thing, as it’s already Three King’s Day, and we’re meant to just be getting on with things by this point… and so we shall.

Ruby's Cafe 09

Between the endless holidays ads since Halloween, culminating in the Jenny Craig/Weight Watchers/local gym membership drives now, it was a relief to kick off our Holiday Blackout on Christmas Eve, and contentedly refuse much more interaction with media than playing a few games of Lexulous online. We avoided people, too, which isn’t what we usually do, but it was a blessed relief, this year, as we were both stricken with some sniffly thing which actually might have been …a cold. Since we deny the existence of the common cold in this household, we simply blamed the dry air, and made excuses to spend another day in bed with headache medicine.

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It was unavoidable to do a bit of traveling, though, and we were happy enough to visit our favorite diner in Laguna Hills, Ruby’s. It’s adorable at any time of the year, with its shiny red and silver decor, model WWII planes slowly flying around the ceiling (one of which D. identified as the kind his father flew in the Korean War), and its vintage Coke ads, but it especially shone with all the holiday decorations flung around.

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Ruby’s is like opening a door and stepping back into a cleaner, more technical and much more diverse version of the 1940’s. The earnest looking men wear soda jerk hats and wrap-around aprons, and the women in their fresh red and white pinstriped waitress mini-dresses, white caps, “natural” looking stockings and perky aprons. The service is really, really good, and you don’t often find people under twenty-five in the diner, unless accompanied by people over sixty-five. This might be because there’s a mall next door with other food options, or this might be because there are several doctor’s offices and a VA nearby, skewing the age group to the AARP side of things, but it’s never too crowded, and we’re often the youngest people in the joint. Which suits us just fine.

But, whatever else the decor and other patrons do or don’t do for us, you know we’d never be at a diner if it didn’t have really, really good food. Despite its being a chain, this isn’t just your usual Coke and Burgers joint, nope. We did mention it was by some doctor’s offices, yes? The food there is … healthy. For a given value of health, yes, but it’s got low carb options on the menu, calorie counts and diet cherry Coke. With a real cherry. You cannot help but feel spoiled with a real maraschino Cherry in your diet Coke…

T. always gets their low carb veggie tacos, which are mostly shredded cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, and salsa with a very few black beans and a whole wheat, handmade taco shell. D. usually springs for the onion rings and a veggie burger of some sort. (You can even get your burger wrapped in just lettuce, if you’d like to cut carbs even more.) There are tons of Ruby’s throughout Southern California — and one in Hawaii, one in New Jersey, one in Vegas and a few more in Pennsylvania for some inexplicable reason — but if you ever get a chance to find one of the fifteen or twenty in SoCal, you should. It’s just one of those places that seems to be a place to be happy…

And, speaking of happy!

Or, happy in the food sense, anyway: we made a new food discovery last month! We didn’t actually cruise the Asian market for this one ourselves; T’s sister dubiously bought a couple of packages and then couldn’t get herself nerved up enough to eat them, so passed them along.

Tofu Noodles

This may look, to you, merely like ramen-ish or pot noodles, but they’re better – they’re ramen-ish pot noodles made out of tofu and yam flour. Given that yam flour has, er… what they call an “organic” smell, you’ll want to rinse these thoroughly right out of the package. “Organic” apparently smells oddly rotten or like wet dog and seaweed, so yay! No, it’s not really appetizing, but keep in mind that tofu is made through a process of fermentation, so there’s that, plus whatever drying and rehydrating process which makes flour from the yam, which may or may not be a yam as the Western mind is familiar with — but it’s all food and safe, so soldier on, foodie.

These faux noodles come in macaroni, spaghetti, fettuccine and other variations from House Foods, and while we can’t speak to the other varieties, we know the ramen-ish stuff is reasonable for stir fry and Asian foods. We made a very simple mock duck, broccoli, onion and orange sauce (READ: marmalade and soy sauce, works a treat) for our first bag. It worked. Perfectly. D. was T’s taste tester in this (by the time she cooked it, she only wanted a cup of tea), and he surprised her by eating his entire serving – twenty calories – with every appearance of enjoyment.

BEWARE, however: from what we’ve read, if you eat these with the idea of real pasta in your head, you’ll be unhappy. Shirataki noodles have no taste but what sauce you give them, but the texture is very different from wheat pasta. Even al dente pasta mushes between your teeth when you chew it… but this has a slight rubbery texture which snaps strangely between your teeth to produce a cognitive dissonance as you chew. Conversely, if you’ve eaten squid, apparently you’ll be okay with this, as that’s one description – that it reminds people a bit of squid, except not so chewy.

(Okay, that didn’t really help, did it?)

Either way, this is not Italian food, but it is good, and worth experimentation. For three grams of carbohydrate and twenty calories a serving, it’s worthwhile for those times you feel like eating your weight in packaged ramen. Shiritaki provides that college-style comfort food without the extra load on your body.

Stay tuned for further experimentation!

So, happy New Year, intrepid traveler through this world. Plug your ears when diet commercials come on. We love you just the way you are. If you’re happy with you, we’re happy with you.

Be well, and stay out of trouble.

3 Replies to “Auld Lang Syne Again”

  1. Once upon a time, I had calamari on pizza (very long tale) at 3 a.m. in the Munich airport. I swear that I could STILL be chewing them now~seven years later. So, you may keep your chewy noodles.

    The diner, though, sounds delightful.

    1. Huh – well, maybe squid isn’t right, because they’re not quite chewy like endless-rubber. Maybe they’re more like… well, I don’t know.

      And I won’t even ask about Munich at 3 a.m. ANYTHING could happen…

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