True stories with a twist!

Posts tagged ‘humor’

MEMORIAL TO GOURMET MAGAZINE

In November, 2009, when I heard the astounding news that Conde Nast decided to eliminate the publication of Gourmet I was shocked. “This magazine has been a part of my life every since I was married,” I wailed. “Couldn’t Conde Nast call for a vote? Summon a focus group? Just a snap of corporate fingers and it’s gone?”

I have so many memories of this wonderful publication.

The first recipe I tried was “Dill Bread Hoffman.” That recipe brought a raging battle to the “Letters to the Editor” page.

“How dare those Hoffmans steal my recipe and then name it after themselves? I submitted that recipe first.”

The pride in family recipes was very serious to the original Dill Bread bakers.Their published temper tantrum added a Country Brawl quality to the magazine.

I was bought back to one traumatic pre-Thanksgiving when my son was in second grade. He came home from school in tears. He had forgotten to tell me that bis teacher requested that the children ask their mothers to serve a typical pilgrim dinner that night.

“Everyone told the class what they had for dinner. Most kids said stuff like, turkey, corn, and squash. But when it was men turn I said Szechuan beef with Chinese mushrooms. Everyone laughed at me.”

My defense? Gourmet had featured recipes from China in the last issue.

Every month when Gourmet arrived I enjoyed a reprieve from humdrum ordinary to exotic. It connected me with famous, sophisticated chefs divulging coveted recipes.

And they were receptive to their subscribers. Once, after a vacation to La Jolla, California, I requested a recipe from Sante Ristorante. One day a letter from Gourmet arrived, containing the recipe for “Papardelle with Fennel Sauce,” compliments of the chef. Gourmet had made time to call and get the respond to my request.

Now they were being forced out of my life forever.

Is it possible to mourn a publication? I did.

Feeling the need for comfort, someone with whom to share my feelings, a way to connect with a past Gourmet experience, I found Sante Restorante and dialed their number. Rather than a greeting from the restaurant I heard a computerized voice saying that the number had been permanently disconnected.

“So they’re gone too!”

As I sorrowfully looked through the last issue ever to be published, November 2009, “A Day That Will Live In Culinary Infamy,” those annoying little post cards advertising new subscriptions kept falling out from between the pages. They were annoying before but now they were infuriating.

“I’ll show Conde Nast what I think of their company’s policy!”Searching through all the Gourmet Magazines stored on my kitchen shelves, I gathered every single postcard and mailed them back to Conde Nast.

They will have to pay for all that postage for those cards. I hope they have to declare Bankruptcy, Chapter 11, and income tax evasion.

So I wonder, “If Julia Child were here today what would she think of what I did?”

ITALIAN FINANCIAL CRISIS

I never thought it could come to this. How could a little action on my part, or maybe a few actions on my part, derail the entire government of Italy?  As I read the headlines about their financial disaster and the thought that these economic problems could sink their government and even cause a collapse of the Euro in Europe, I hang my head in shame.

The fact that all this dire news that is shaking the world was a problem that I caused is humiliating and embarrassing. How can a few harmless acts destroy an entire country?

A whole continent?

It all started with my boots. Boots? Yes, I kept hearing about the quality and superiority of Italian leathers. On a trip to Italy I sampled these luxuries. They were soft. So soft that I could imagine wearing them as bodywear rather than footwear. Could I ever wear any other leather once becoming acquainted with Italian leathers?

This is a rhetorical question.

So I bought some and charged them to my Visa card. Don’t ask me to define ”SOME.”

After the leather find I discovered Italian silk. Near the town of Como were fabulous silk factories. Italian silks are so fine that fashion houses around the world order them for their runway collections. Could I return to the United States without buying my family and friends some of these luxuries? Another rhetorical question. I could do no such thing. So I charged more sales to the reliable Visa card.

We all love pasta, but Italian pasta and the piquant tomato sauce served with it was such a sensation that I had to share some with my friends back home. It’s a marvel that even delicate, perishable items can be shipped across the ocean. Obviously Italian goods were meant to be sent back home. I’m not the only one who does this!

By the time I was ready to leave Italy I singlehandedly boosted the Gross National Product to its all time high. There was rejoicing in the streets. it was like the New Orleans Mardi Gras without the trumpets.

But then the boom dropped.

Reliable Visa rejected my entire shopping spree. They recognized that this kind of spending did not match my regular pattern, and voided the whole amount before I could disagree.

My Visa rejection is what started the economic downfall of a beautiful, romantic and stylish country.

Vaya Con Dios, Italia. Scuzzi!

LITTLE BLUE FISH

I didn’t want a fish. I don’t want a fish. Anything but another fish in this house. How many do we have, thanks to my husband’s hobby?

He has two salt water tanks, two fresh water tanks, and a koi pond outside. So a fish of my own was not what I longed for.

But it was my friend’s big birthday, she loves animals and critters, and I thought a small unobtrusive tank with one colorful Siamese Fighting Fish would be a cheerful addition to her kitchen. Her kitchen decor is overwhelmingly  blue, so I bought a blue one with long, sensual, diaphanous fins. She would love it.

But before I could present her with this sensational and thoughtful gift, she said to me,  “I’m tired of taking care of everything. As of this birthday I don’t want one more thing to take care of.”

Not even a little blue fish,? I think. After making her wishes so clear I can’t possible give her the one thing more she doesn’t want to take care of.

So here I am, stuck with fish-sitting HER fish for a few years. How long do Siamese Fighting Fish live? I wonder.

I call him/her (?)  Sparky and set its little tank in the center of the kitchen counter, surrounded by my white begonias and red kalanchoe. Suddenly my kitchen is quite bright and patriotic: red, white and blue! “OK, Sparky: dinner time!”, I say, as I drop one pellet at a time into the water. Sparky zooms up to the top to fetch his reward. He zeros in, flapping his little fins with joy, as he consumes each pellet.

Every morning I come into the kitchen and put the light on at the top of his tank. “Good morning, Sparks,” I find myself saying. “How are you today?”

He zooms to the top, recognizing a human presence nearby, hoping in his little fish heart that the human has a treat for him. His fins are working overtime. They remind me of a car’s windshield wipers adjusted to run at maximum speed.

It’s almost a year since Sparky’s arrival, and I notice a change in his behavior. Now when I drop a pellet into the tank he wanders around pathetically, trying to find it. “It’s up here, Sparkles,” I say reassuringly. I even tap lightly on the tank cover, trying to help him locate his food. I see him snap at something, only to watch the pellet float down to the bottom of the tank.

Sparky seems to be blind!

I didn’t want a fish, and now I have a handicapped, special needs fish. I feel sad and sorry for such an innocent harmless creature, who cannot even find his pellet of food in a tank the size of a basketball.

But Sparky is part of our family now, and he can expect good care in every way I can give it.

WHAT MAMA NEVER TOLD ME

Why didn’t my mother warn me?

Sure, we spoke about the qualities a future husband should have. But the real questions? The every day life questions? What about those?

What causes dissension between two people who love each other?

The Number One reason is temperature. Temperature also accounts for numbers two, three and four. And I don’t mean the FEVER, about which Peggy Lee sang. That would be too romantic. I mean temperature settings in the house. In a constant surreptitious way the arrow gets adjusted, pushed and changed from 68 to 74 degrees all winter long. Someone is always freezing; someone is always sizzling. Why don’t couples notice this problem when they’re dating?

Then come questions about spare time. At the end of a busy day do you like to relax and put your feet up, read or watch “Dancing With the Stars?” Does he feel raring to go, ready to dash out every night to attend lectures, loud violent movies, or night court?

Is he an “Inny or an Outty”, and we’re not discussing belly buttons. Are you content to stay home and putter in the garden, while he would rather get going immediately after morning coffee to drive to the Delaware Water Gap to hike? Is exercise something you both enjoy, or did a couch potato marry a Jack LaLanne?

Arguments about vacations: beach or the mountains? Would you rather be swarmed by ravenous blood sucking mosquitoes or suffer the bites of sand fleas at the beach?

Does one of the couple prefer roughing it and camping out while the other prefer the luxury of a pampering spa experience? Why are they always married to each other?

And why does every couple consist of one junk food and one health food lover? If one is dreaming of a Big Whopper and the other searching for Numi juice and organic Tofu, there’s a conflict.

So Mom, you let me down. You didn’t tell me about the real pitfalls of marriage.

Maybe I’ll feel better after a double Big Whopper, fries and a chocolate shake!

SHUCKS, DR.OZ

Have you ever noticed the slick, glossy covers lurking on store racks luring us to buy magazines? What tantalizing topics hypnotize us?

Juicy gossip about the newest Hollywood glamour couple? The latest scandalous divorce? Whereabouts of the latest political sex offenders?

The number one topic trumpeting from 90% of magazine covers is weight loss. How to lose weight is a more popular subject than who will run for president in 2012. Later this year everyone will know who the candidate will be. By then even more people will want to lose weight.

Fresh from TV-land emerges the popular, winsome, toned Dr. Oz. He is as slim as a praying mantis and just as revered.

I was addicted to his show as I would be if I were a Twinkies or Yodels addict. If I couldn’t watch the show I taped it and watched it later instead of preparing dinner.

Then he Oz-ified the show by adding segments describing the most important foods to add to our diets.

Naively, I once thought a bowl of cold cereal with sliced bananas and skim milk was a good, nutritious breakfast. But now I know that by adding wheat germ, flax seeds, chia and hemp seeds I will glow with good health. My hair will shine, my teeth will whiten and my knees will think they’re 25 again. Top this with fresh berries, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and I can expect to be congratulated by Willard Scott on my 100th birthday.

But does Dr. Oz have any idea of the caloric costs of these additions? He expounds more revelations: “Nuts are amazing!” Now my day is incomplete without ingesting at least twelve cashews, two brazil nuts, handfuls of almonds and scads of pistachios. And a few walnuts. And to keep my heart healthy I must include dark chocolate. I have added approximately 3,076 calories by gaining so much health. And that is only the solid food portion.What about liquid accompaniments? “Oz Law” dictates three or four glasses of calcium a day. These can be in the form of milk, enriched orange juice or a Singapore Sling with a calcium chaser. Red wine is heart healthy too. So I pour, twirl and sip some of that brew strictly in the interest of good health, strong heartbeats and a remarkably sudden cheerful disposition.

“How about mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks?” he asks. I dutifully follow his instructions at the cost of adding another 5,895 calories to the day’s intake.

At my next physical exam my doctor is impressed with my routine test results. But with great concern he warns, “You’ve got to lose all the extra weight you’ve put on this year.”

Now you will find me in front of the magazine rack, intently reading the headlines of those slick, glossy magazines previously mentioned. I continue to look for my right answer, right diet, and right guru.

TRAVEL GAME

After a long grueling car trip to New Hampshire we found, after a while, that we exhausted our best controversial conversational topics,  discussed the year’s best movies, tired of the CDs we had brought along and lost interest in local radio programming. Everyone was bored and restless.

Our mood had to be elevated, so I suggested,  “Here’s an exercise we used to play in our seminars. Everyone take a minute to think about this. Then we’ll each take a  turn telling the group an adjective that best describes us. The point of the exercise is to prove that we don’t see ourselves as others see us.’

Mike volunteered to start. The first word he said was “kind”. This is an impartial exercise, but my jaw must have dropped. Mike, kind? Perhaps In a Ghengis Kahn sort of way. “Did you ever see Mike coach a Little League Baseball Game?”, I was tempted to say. 

The next person to take a turn was Edith. She said, “generous.” Not that I’ve particularly noticed, but Edith, generous? She holds onto her money so tightly that her knuckles are always white. Who’s the one member of our faculty who never contributes to the emergency gift fund?

Tommy followed Edith. He said “fair minded”. Tommy must be referring to the color of his hair, because nothing about Tommy is fair minded. “That bum!” he rants furiously, if a person in political office makes a decision with which he disagrees.

Marcia chimed in with, ” my word is ‘private’.” Oh, yes; Marcia is private, alright. That’s why she ties me up every time I run into her in town, grabbing my attention to gab endlessly; describing all the pettinesses and disagreements in her family.

The eyes look toward me next. It is my turn to choose an adjective that most describes me. I will be honest, unlike the others. When I tell them my word they will immediately recognize me. “My adjective,” I say, “Is non-judgmental.”

As I told the group before we started this exercise, “Nobody sees you the way you see yourself.”

Competition

“My Dad can beat up your Dad.” A standard taunt back then. It was also my first awareness of competition. Someone can do something better than someone else.

My first childhood memory of being competitive involved trying to outsell my neighbor in a sidewalk sale. We each had a table filled with items to sell. I even had a semblance of a Business Plan: I’ll buy things she’s selling that I can sell at a higher price! She is asking only ten for that that jump rope with the fancy handles; it’s worth at least a dollar.

I took the firm action my child’s business mind deemed necessary for success. “May I buy that jump rope?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said.  With great glee and sense of advanced business acumen I handed over my ten cents and proudly placed her jump rope on my sale table. Throngs of kids will be fighting to own such a beautiful object! I waited and waited. There were no throngs, and those who did see it didn’t hold the rope in the same high regard I did. It remained on my table until dinner time, when everything had to be dismantled as is, sold or unsold.

Where did this competitiveness come from?

Can I blame it on Steve, my piano teacher, whose response to pieces I played for him each week was always, “Not bad.” It was never “Good job.” It wasn’t even “Interesting interpretation of Chopin; he probably would have loved the rock rhythm you added.”

Parents are always a handy source of blame. Maybe it was their fault: all the comparisons they made between my brother and me.

“Jerry, great save ! You kept Jamaica High’s soccer team from scoring that goal.”

“Ronnie, good job walking Rover today. He sniffed out his spot in record time. You sure have a way with animals.”

Complimenting my brother on an outstanding job was right. But to feel that they had to make up a reason to compliment me, even for an inane every day task, brought focus on the idea that Jerry and I were in a battlefield of competition.

In high school, was I invited to the popular kids’ parties? I’m not sure, but I remember asking a friend, “WHAT Sweet Sixteen Party on Saturday night?”

Then came the college application process. That’s all anybody talked about.

“How many applications are you sending?”

“What is your safe school?

“Are you applying for early admission anywhere?” That time was the most stressful competition I ever experienced.

Now personal questions cause questions in my mind that make me wonder; are they being competitive or are they just making conversation?

“Is your trip to Scotland for business or pleasure? How long will you be there? Where are you staying?” Is this friendly interest or is it judgmental? Are they evaluating the length of time I can get away and my category of accommodations? Did John Glenn face these kind of interrogations when he rocketed into space?

I once thought that when you grew up everything changed. But the big life surprise is that competition never ends. It’s there when you buy a house, choose a car, or decide what international skirmishes the United States should enter.

And the competition moves forward to your children and your grandchildren. “Does he walk yet? When did he start talking? Does she have aspirations for the Olympic team?”

After much thought, I have discovered the final competition: Now I know when it finally ends. It will be the last bit of news anyone will ever ask about me. I am convinced that at the very end of life’s journey some people will ask, “Did her obituary make it into in the New York Times?”

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