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Archive for June, 2011

Is there really any reason to stuff a bell pepper? I’m sorry, maybe I’m in the minority here, but a green bell pepper is not a craving of mine. Not for a second. But to make it a main dish? Who’s smokin’ crack around here? I mean, did people sit around in the 70’s and go, ”Man, I am starving!! I could really eat a big old green pepper stuffed with something! Anything!!” Well, apparently my Mom did, because she would serve up those things at least once every other month. I’m thinking this would coincide with a 6 for $1 green bell pepper sale at the local Shopper’s World.

Shopper’s World was the ‘70s version of Costco. I mean a really small, stupid version of Costco. There was one just up the street from our house in Vallejo. I remember there were carts … not shopping carts with the little kid seats, but carts that you pushed like at Home Depot. Yeah, that’s it, ‘push carts.’ My Mom could pile some serious canned goods on to one of those things. The only fun part about shopping at Shopper’s World was when my sisters and I would push each other around on a cart before it was loaded up with 300 Campbell soup cans and 2-for-1 green beans. We could get that cart moving pretty fast, but we’d have to dodge getting a cigarette or two in the eye. Yes, people could smoke in the aisles at grocery stores back then. The humanity!!

The Shopper’s World was located right next door to our favorite candy store, The Wagon Wheel. Yes, that was the liquor store you learned about in my last post. Treats for adults and kids alike. We knew better than to bug my Mom to let us run over to The Wagon Wheel to get our Skittles fix while she was on a shopping mission. I think she allotted just so much time in her busy schedule for shopping, and candy wasn’t on the list. There were chores and lunches and a “Days of Our Lives” episode to get back home to.

If Mom didn’t feel like loading up the wood-paneled station wagon with the four of us kids to drive up the street to Shopper’s World, she could hang out at the house and wait for the Vegetable Guy to make his rounds. There was actually a man who drove a vegetable truck around Vallejo back then so all the Mom’s could shop for fruit and veggies from the comfort of their front lawns. Our vegetable guy was a short Italian guy who wore a beret and looked like the man from one of my favorite childhood books, “Caps for Sale.”

Except our vegetable guy had a hook for an arm. He was nice and everything, and his green table grapes were the stuff dreams are made of, but still as an eight-year-old, I couldn’t get past that arm. I’d hang back on the porch when he pulled up. Which is why I probably never saw him sneak those bell peppers into the bag. Plus the fact he had us all hopped up in a green-table-grape-free-sample-stupor.

Well, I imagine by now you’re clamoring for Mary Ann’s amazing Stuffed Bell Pepper recipe. The truth is, I don’t think she really had a recipe for it. Who would create a recipe for that? I think you’re safe just to recycle the ingredients from her famous Porcupine Balls recipe for this one like she did … just prepare that slop and shove it into some hollowed-out green bell peppers. Throw it in the oven for, oh, who knows, a half hour? Then just TRY to get your kids to the table. I dare you.

If you’re still reading, and you really want to make Mary Ann’s Stuffed Bell Peppers, well here’s the fancy ingredients for Porcupine Balls that make up the wonderful innards of the peppers. You deserve it.

1 pound of ground beef
2 cups of cooked white rice
1 can of tomato soup
2 tablespoons of minced onion (or cut up a little bit of real onion to make it fancy)
Salt and pepper to taste

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If you’ve been following this blog, you’re familiar with Papa Don, otherwise known as my Dad. Papa Don was a cool Dad to grow up with. He wasn’t always called Papa Don, he was just Dad, but my niece called him that as a youngin, so now we all do.

Papa Don was born cool. Just look at this baby picture. Does this kid have attitude, or what? He’s even motioning with his hand, like, “C’mon punk, you want some of this?”

In high school, Papa Don was apparently a bad-ass. I guess one time some punks were picking on my Uncle Bobby, his younger brother, when some kid ran up and said, “Hey man, don’t you know his brother is Don Coen??!!” They all beat it outa there.

Papa Don and Uncle Bobby have an Aunt Betty Lou that is very close to their age. Back then, Aunt Betty Lou was dating John, who later became Uncle John. Betty Lou and John used to like to park outside her house and neck, or whatever you called it in the ‘50s. But there was a bright street light that lit up their car, so my Dad and his friends would throw rocks to bust out that street light so Betty Lou and John could have their privacy. Then the city would come out and fix it, and then Dad and the gang would go and bust it out again.

When I was about eight, I sprained my arm by tripping over our cat, Midnight. I wasn’t the most graceful child. I don’t remember quite what happened, but the cat darted out in front of me while I was walking on the front lawn. I remember going straight down on my elbow, while my older sister, Tracy, and my best friend, Randy, also ended up on the ground, rolling with laughter. I was in agony and they were enjoying it. I had to go to the emergency room to get an x-ray and Dad was sitting there right next to me. I was babying my arm by bending it and holding my hand up near my shoulder cuz it hurt like crazy if I tried to straighten it out. The doctor came over and reached for my hand and said he was going to take the x-ray. Well, before I knew it he slammed my arm straight out on the table. I gasped and screamed and my Dad bolted straight up and went for the doctor. I think he was going to open a jar of whoop-ass right there in Kaiser Hospital. The doctor apologized over and over saying that the “surprise straightening” was the only way to get an x-ray cuz I wouldn’t like it if he had to slowly straighten out my arm. So my Dad calmed down a bit. Lucky for that doctor.

When my sisters and I were little, Dad would come home from his job at Mare Island and we would rush him, begging him to play “Monster” with us. He’d chase us around the house acting like a growling monster and we’d run and scream until the youngest, Melissa, would freak out and cry and beg him to stop. Then he’d settle down in his favorite chair while Mom made dinner and one of us girls would serve him a big icy glass and a bottle of RC Cola. We fought over serving him, cuz it meant we would get some of that delicious cola. Every once in a while he’d pour some for us in our color-coordinated plastic cups. We’d take a big drink and it was so strong it would make our eyes tear up.

There was a small section of the kitchen floor that would fill up with empty RC Cola bottles that Dad would let us recycle at the local liquor store. Yeah, back in the ‘70s the liquor stores had lots of candy, too, so they’d allow us in without an ID. We’d put all those RC Cola bottles in our little red wagon and venture out to the Wagon Wheel Liquor Store to cash them in. We usually had enough so we could each buy our favorite candy—mine was Skittles. I think my Skittles only cost about a dime then, so I guess that whole wagon-full of bottles added up to about 40 cents. Wow, that’s less than a stamp costs these days. Oh well, at least my Dad can still beat up your Dad.

Happy Father’s Day, Papa Don!!

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I love Spring. It’s my favorite season. Unfortunately in Southern Oregon, Spring only lasts about 2-1/2 days. It rains off and on all winter, then sometime around March you get that perfect day when the sun comes out and the pink and white flower blossoms are covering all the fruit trees. The next day seems like another beautiful day, but a storm will arrive in the afternoon and blow all the blooms off the trees. Then in late May you’ll get one additional beautiful 70-degree day, then BAM it’s 300 degrees until September.

When I was a kid I couldn’t wait until Spring. I liked all of the seasons, but Spring meant you could ride your bike again. And let’s face it; bike riding is the best thing in the world to happen to children. I remember getting my first real bike. It was Christmas morning, and I was seven years old. We ran out into the living room and there were three beautiful bikes lined up in front of the monstrous stereo … well, two bikes for me and Tracy and a tricycle for Coleen. Melissa was still a baby, so I think there was a Baby Drowsy sitting there for her.

I couldn’t believe it — a shiny new blue Schwinn with a short sissy bar and a sparkling silver banana seat. Of course it had training wheels on it, which, big chicken that I was, got lots of use for the first few months. Once I was ready, or actually, once my Dad convinced me I was ready, he took those training wheels off and he took me and the bike across the street to the church parking lot. I remember it was a nice sunny day and my sisters and Randy, my next-door neighbor and best friend, were in tow. Dad gave me all the pointers on how to keep my balance and steer the handle bars. Then he held on to that sissy bar while I peddled and peddled all over the parking lot. Before I knew it, he had let go and I was riding on my own! Of course, once I realized he had let go, I froze and held the handle bars stiff so that I was going around and around in a circle. He kept yelling, “Turn! Turn!” And I’m pretty sure I remember lots of laughing from my audience. But I gathered up my courage and turned the handle bars just a bit until I was riding in a straight line. He had created a monster. I was hooked.

Me, Tracy and Randy would ride our bikes every chance we got. We’d ride around the church parking lot every day after school and every weekend. We’d take turns speeding down the church sidewalk so we could slam on the brakes and leave huge skid marks at the church’s entrance. Then we’d giggle quietly, yet proudly, as we walked over the skid marks on our way into Sunday school.

Sometimes we’d attach playing cards to our bikes so they’d rub on the spokes and sound cool when we rode around. It was pretty stupid. What’s more stupid is that Randy and I came up with this fancy business idea. We took our old tricycles, dismantled them, and rebuilt them in to low-rider tricycles. We thought we were on to something and would make a million dollars. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want one of these fancy machines fabricated by a seven-year-old? We made signs and sat out on my front lawn. One sign sat next to a regular tricycle that read “From This…” and the other sign sat next to a customized low-rider tricycle that said “To This!” Yeah, we sat out there all day from dawn to dusk without one customer.

Randy was a show-off because he had an AM bike radio on his handle bars. He thought he was so cool with that thing. But at least I could listen to “Knock Three Times” by Tony Orlando & Dawn and other smash hits while we were riding around. We all had cool STP stickers on our front fenders. I don’t remember where those stickers came from, but they were like gold. All the cool boys in the neighborhood had one on their bike, so it meant we were also cool. Um, well Tracy was cool; I was the runt dork who liked to ride around with her.

Speaking of stickers, there were these totally cool collectible stickers in the ‘70s with bubble gum inside. Those stickers were called “Wacky Packages.” Kids would save their tooth fairy money, turn in cola bottles or whatever it took to buy those stickers at the local five and dime. Wacky Packages were crazy trading stickers similar to baseball cards that poked fun at consumer products of the day. We couldn’t get enough of them. They were ridiculous, disgusting and awesome all at the same time. We’d stick them all over our bike fenders, books, dresser mirrors and toys. Well, I didn’t put them on my bike, cuz I didn’t want to ruin the beautifulness of my Schwinn … and the magnificence of my STP sticker.

Here’s a sampling of Wacky Package stickers:

Gotta take care of those teeth:

A little afternoon refreshment for the youngins:

Breakfast anyone?:

And last, but certainly not least, the parody of the all-important Heinz Ketchup:

Yeah, I still have a bike. She’s a purple beach cruiser named Dottie. She’s named after Pee Wee Herman’s girlfriend in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” I got her in Long Beach and used to cruise her around Venice Beach and Santa Monica before we moved to Oregon. Now she gets to cruise around the neighborhood park every once in a while. And it’s still fun.

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Chapter 2 – Gluttony

They say that Gluttony is the second of the Seven Deadly Sins. Well, if it really is a sin, Jay is going to hell in a hand-basket…or a rocket. The definition of gluttony is “excess in eating or drinking.” (Uh-oh…drinking in excess is also gluttony? Sorry Coens.) Jay does eat in excess a lot. He just loves food; he can’t help himself. He will be full, to the point of being uncomfortable, and still keep eating. When I turn on the Food Channel, I’m still surprised that Jay hasn’t replaced Adam Richman on Man vs. Food. There should be 300 trophy t-shirts from restaurant challenges in our closet.

Jay isn’t overweight like you’d expect. You’d never know he was a gluttonous fool. He even takes pictures of food at family gatherings. Sometimes the result of Jay’s indulgence isn’t pleasant for him…or me. One time we were up at my Dad’s and Jay was eating everything. My Dad’s wife Phyllis makes fancy little snacks that she sets out on the counter, and one time she had left some of the treats out all day by accident. I’m guessing they contained some sort of dairy product because after dinner (and after indulging in large amounts of Phyllis’ creations), Jay said he didn’t feel so well. I saw a glaze come over him…he jumped up from the table and tried to make it to the bathroom. He didn’t quite make it, well; actually he made it to the bathroom wall, and the floor, the lid of the toilet and the wall behind the toilet. He immediately went to lie down, and yes, I had to clean up the mess. If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.

After Jay felt the rush of fame acquired after the first “What’s Jay Eating?” post on this blog, he decided to let me know anytime he felt one of his “concoctions coming on.” Now I grab the camera and follow him into the kitchen to watch the master at work. This usually happens within 15 minutes after a full dinner. This special creation below came about after a healthy and hearty meal I fixed for him comprised of tri-tip steak, mashed potatoes and spinach salad. See, I do feed him. As I write this, we just finished a full dinner and he is relaxing on the couch with a 10-pack of miniature Hershey Bars, two huge Lemonheads and a bag of some Cinnamon Toasty cereal. And that’s probably just the beginning. Oh no, he just turned on Man vs. Food. Oh well, at least I’ll have more material for my next post.

Here’s how one of Jay’s concoctions plays out. First, he sets out all of the ingredients:

He starts layering them in to a huge bowl. Jay starts with a foundation of Rocky Road ice cream, and then adds some mini shredded wheat cereal and crunch berries:

Then he cuts up some fresh strawberries to make it fancy:

Next, he drizzles on some chocolate sauce for good measure:

Adds milk:

And tops it all off with some Sour Patch Kids.

I hope he makes it to the toilet tonight.

Note: I just asked Jay to proof this. While I was semi-gagging he proclaimed, “There’s an art to eating that bowl.” So now he’s an artist…

P.S. Check out this funny blog: http://thegoodgreatsby.com. I won his Caption Contest this week, so you know he has good taste!

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