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Archive for August, 2011

While garage-saling this summer, Jay purchased a box of books that contained this gem, “The ABC of Casseroles.” It’s the exact book I’ve been waiting for: plenty of unbelievable, crappy recipes that I can make fun of on this blog. This book puts Mary Ann to shame. It was published by the Peter Pauper Press in 1954. Apparently Peter was such a Pauper that he couldn’t afford the ” ‘s ” for ABC in the title. This little jewel is gonna supply me with plenty of “recipes” to make fun of for a good, long time. And many of the recipes have fancy little introductory poems to make more fun of. Life is good.

It was difficult to choose the first entry to ridicule. There are so many choices. I mean no disrespect to the editors (no one appears to take responsibility for this book by name, which is understandable), but they asked for it. Just look at the book’s intro:

TO THE READER:

In this book, you will find countless ideas for quick one-course dinners as well as imaginative and festive dishes that you will want to set before your most cherished guests.

None of the recipes is complicated, or too difficult for the inexperienced cook. We have had her particularly in mind in assembling these recipes, since it is she, and not her older and more experienced sister, who usually holds down a job, and cooks too. Many of the dishes can be prepared the day before, and baked at the last minute. And many are quickies that can be both prepared and cooked in an hour’s time.

A casserole, a tossed green salad, and steaming coffee make an elegant and sophisticated dinner. Add a fancy dessert and you have a feast!

Alright, first of all I’ll admit … these recipes are definitely imaginative though I’m actually afraid to have any of my most cherished guests read about them in this post, let alone eat them. It’s really sweet of the editors to assemble these for my dumb, inexperienced self, especially since a lot of my older sisters were cooking for their families AND holding down a job in 1954. That was an eye-opener. Women with full-time jobs in the ’50s? Hmm. Maybe they were all stewardesses? Or nuns? I do appreciate that the editors threw the word “quickies” in there. And although I don’t serve steaming hot coffee for dinner, it’s not a bad idea. I may want to pour it on myself for distraction while I suffer through these recipes. But I do love that they used the word “fancy” in the last sentence since it’s my favorite Friday Night Casserole adjective.

So let’s get started. I’ve decided to treat you to this special recipe first. And I’ve thrown in the fancy introductory poem to, well, make it fancy:

Wait a minute … my Mom never told me she wrote poems for a fancy casserole book!!

Gulp. The title of this recipe just made me shudder. Hard-boiled eggs with scallops? That has my spit glands in overdrive … I need to take a few deep breaths. Now, I love scallops. But I’ve never wanted to boil them in water and then prepare them with hard-boiled eggs. Then bell peppers? And then mushy celery? I don’t even want to know what they consider “white sauce.” This recipe sounds like a triple-dog dare. I’d rather stick my tongue to a frozen flag pole than eat one bite of this dish.

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I’m sitting here looking at my Netflix copy of “Twilight: New Moon.” No, I didn’t see it at the theater. I’m not a Twihard, or a Twimom. I did see the first one, but none after that. Now I need to watch it so I can write an article about it for work. But I changed my mind; I’m more interested in working on this blog post so Edward and Bella will have to wait. Maybe for an eternity.

When I was a kid there was a certain awesome soap opera we loved. Not the type of soap opera you’re thinking of like “Days of Our Lives” or “General Hospital.” Though I admit I did love “Days.” That’s what we called it. My Mom loved “Days” and as kids we’d watch it, too. I can remember coming home from my full half-day of kindergarten and Mom would have a nice little lunch prepared: usually a half PBJ sandwich (or something like Land ‘o Frost turkey luncheon meat with American Cheese), a serving of potato chips, a half an orange and a glass of milk. Mom would bring the tiny kid table out into the living room so I could sit and eat my lunch with her, Dr. and Mrs. Horton and the rest of the “Days of Our Lives” family.

Even when I was in college, everyone would schedule their classes around “Days” so we could be home to watch it. No, we didn’t have DVR’s to record it, or even VCR’s for that matter. Shoot, if we wanted to rent a video in college to play drinking games along with, we had to go to the one video store in town that had about 50 actual VCR’s that you could rent, because no one actually owned a VCR then. We’d have to put down about an $80 dollar deposit to take one of those VCR’s home for the night, too, and that’s a lot of beer money. Watching a video was something special back then, so we’d make sure we had a lot of people over and a lot of beer , and hopefully a rented copy of “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” to laugh at—and to drink to every time Pee Wee did something ridiculous. Yes, we got pretty wasted.

As I was saying, “Days” was a pretty big deal. Soap operas in general were a big deal. But the one awesome soap opera I referred to earlier wasn’t “Days” or “General Hospital” (even though John Stamos’ character, Blackie, was the stuff dreams are made of), or even “The Young and the Restless.” I’m talking about the granddaddy gothic version of them all: “Dark Shadows.”

http://www.retrothing.com

I’m sorry if you’re too young to know about Dark Shadows. It was the creepiest, campiest thing ever, and we loved it. I can’t remember specifics about the series, probably because I was just a little kid and I imagine I covered my eyes a lot. But the star was Barnabus Collins, a bonafide vampire, along with other creatures of the night all living (or not living) in some mansion in coastal Maine.

http://www.screened.com

“Dark Shadows” also featured ladies with names like Angelique and Victoria to make it fancy. My sisters and I always loved scary stuff when we were little (still do) and “Dark Shadows” was the highlight of many an afternoon. It was second only to “Creature Features” on Saturday nights with that show’s creepy, campy host, Bob Wilkins.

I think Dark Shadows is available on Netflix, so I’m gonna return this New Moon thing and throw Barnabus into my queue. Then, I think I’ll go string myself a garlic necklace just for good measure.

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Mary Ann invented recycling. You won’t read that in any history books, but it’s true. Most people think the big recycling craze just started this last decade, but my Mom practiced the art of recycling way back in the ‘60s.

The most obvious recycling event at our house happened every August with the hand-me-downs. I don’t remember buying new clothes very much during grade school as I was always getting someone else’s clothes. I was the runt in my family. Even my younger sisters eventually outgrew me. But mostly, I inherited my older sister Tracy’s clothes. That was fine with me because I thought she had the coolest dresses, and I was lucky to get them two years after they had gone out of style. I also got my cousins’ clothes. Of course in grade school, once I had outgrown the hand-me-downs, Coleen and Melissa got them. But at least by then, the clothes had come back into style.

When Tracy and I were toddlers, my Mom made our clothes. They were really cute, and always matching. Tracy and I are practically Irish twins, and Mom usually dressed us as actual twins. I was the much shorter twin. She made us identical clothes through our early grade school years—I even remember being in a ‘fashion show’ in fourth grade. Tracy and I wore my Mom’s designs….polyester peach elephant pants with peach and blue halter tops. And she had us wear big straw hats and sunglasses. Move over Kate Moss and Heidi Klum. Did I mention this fashion show was held in our grade school cafeteria? We were famous for a few minutes, then went home smelling like creamed corn.

My Mom couldn’t help but be resourceful. Each year after birthdays or Christmas morning, Mom would quickly snatch up the discarded bows for the package-wrapping stash for the next big event. I’m guilty of this today. Well c’mon, I’m not gonna throw out a perfectly good bow; I just take off the used tape so the next person will think they’ve received a fancy new one.

Right now I’m looking at my stash of paper and plastic bags. I save every paper bag I get. Yes, I do reuse them often. Sometimes Jay uses them to drain his deep fried taco shells on. And the plastic bags—since I always forget to take my ‘green’ shopping bags to the grocery store, we end up with lots of them. But I have a fancy plastic bag holder that we store them in, and we reuse them for trash, taking snacks to parties and what-not.

Mary Ann had a different stash of plastic bags. I don’t remember plastic grocery bags when I was a kid, but I certainly remember clear plastic produce bags and bread bags. She did not throw those things away. In fact, she would rinse them out and carefully set them out to dry, by sticking them up on the louvered kitchen window. They came in handy for all kinds of things…storing homemade cookies, packing picnic lunches and my favorite—fancy homemade snow boots.

Mom would build up a supply for winter when we took our annual trip to Lake Tahoe to play in the snow. Why bother with buying the kids snow boots or galoshes when you have 300 plastic produce bags and Wonder Bread bags? Mom would outfit us all in two pairs of socks and our sneakers and then put about five plastic bags over each foot—securing them with leftover rubber bands from newspaper deliveries.

They’d last about an hour until each layer had ripped through appropriately and our feet would get wet. Then we’d retreat to the brown wood-paneled station wagon to have some sandwiches—packaged ever-so-nicely in recycled plastic produce bags.

So the next time you’re at the grocery store and they ask you “Paper or Plastic?” I want you to think of me running around the snow in my fancy plastic bag snow boots. Do me a favor and tell the clerk you’ll take paper.

One more thing: I’m glad my Mom never put two and two together and tried to make our clothes out of those plastic bags:

http://www.futurememories.com

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