Memory: Milk

As a child and teenager, I loved milk. Whole milk.

When I was very young, a milkman delivered to our house, twice a week. We got the pasteurized milk in glass bottles with green tops, while my aunt & uncle next door got homogenized milk with red tops. That meant at our house there was always an inch or so of cream at the top of the bottle, and no matter how much I shook the bottle to blend the cream into the rest of the milk, there were disgusting thick white clumps on my Alpha-Bits in the morning.

As a teenager, we got milk in waxed cardboard cartons from the supermarket. Homogenized, thank you G*d.  My mom always had warm-from-the-oven homemade cookies waiting for us when we got off the school bus late afternoon. A tall glass of cold milk was the perfect accompaniment.

Then I moved out on my own. With room mates.

See  that  stove?

An  antique  Norge.  Best  stove I ever  had.  Pilot  light.  Kept  the  whole  top  of  the  stove  warm.  Great spot for raising bread dough. Bad spot for a room mate to leave the milk. All day. A second room mate would come home, see the milk on the stove and put it back in the refrigerator. I would come home and pour myself a glass of . . . clumps. Made those clots of cream from my pre-homogenized day seem almost palatable.

Which is why I can no longer drink a glass of milk.

Movie-Memory: Big Night & Stanley Tucci

 

 

 

 

I have been watching CNN’s series, STANLEY TUCCI, LOOKING FOR ITALY.  I am in bliss for several reasons: Italy, food, wine, and Tucci himself.

The very first time I became aware of Tucci was in 1996. I must have read about the movie Big Night somewhere, because I was desperate to see it. I don’t think it played in a first-run theater in my area. But eventually it did come to the old second-run theater in my neighborhood.  I convinced my husband we needed to see the film. So one winter night we drove through a lot of snow to see the film. I was enchanted.

As we were leaving the theater, I happened to look down and saw something poking through several inches of freshly fallen snow. It was an oversized key ring with several keys on it. We trudged back into the theater to turn in the keys in case someone was looking for them. Turns out someone was.

The owner of the theater was a cranky old woman who had inherited it from her parents. People who grew up in the neighborhood tell of going to matinees and have Miss DiB**** stalking up and down the aisles with a baseball bat looking for people with their feet on the seat backs or any other number of criminal behaviors.  A former co-worker who knew how to run the old 35mm projectors happened to run into her one days, and her greeting was, “The first show is at 7pm on Saturday. Be at the theater at 6.” My colleague said, “What are you talking about?” She replied, “My projectionist just died, you know how to run the 35mm, be at the theater at 6pm on Saturday.” (He didn’t go.) She was a genuine character.

My story about this genuine character involved that key ring on that snowy night. I located her in the nearly deserted theater and handed her the key ring, saying, “I found these on the sidewalk outside.”

“Where did you get those!” she snarled with a glare.

“I found them on the sidewalk under the marquee,” I repeated.

“These are the theater keys and they’ve been missing.” 

I didn’t like being accused of anything. I reiterated that I’d found them outside and left.

So that was my introduction to Stanley Tucci. I adored him in Julie & Julia. I wish I could remember him in The Devil Wears Prada. He was delightful in The Hunger Games series.  He has a long list of credits for both movies, theater, television, but neither IMDB or Wikipedia list a short-lived public TV series he hosted called Vine Talk. Maybe because was dreadful. I wouldn’t admit I was associated with it either. But there are 13 episodes available on Amazon Prime.

Searching for Italy (Sundays at 9pm on CNN) is much better.

 

 

Menu: Dreaming of Food

I don’t know if it’s all the take-out I’ve eaten over the past year or my vow to spend money more wisely, but I am obsessed with take-out from two separate local restaurants. The problem is the cost for Grub Hub is prohibitive. Neither restaurant is convenient for pick up.

One of the (many) local pizza chains has an antipasto I dream about. Yes. Salad. I don’t know what it is about this particular antipasto that makes it so compelling, but I’m not the only one who thinks so. My Day Job, pre-pandemic, used to bring in food for us on a really regular basis. (They still do, but presentation has changed.) When pizza, wings, and salad were brought in from this particular place, the salad was the first thing to go. Same menu from other pizzerias, there is usually salad left over. Not because the pizza and wings were bad–not at all, but because the salad–the antipasto was so good.

Another small, local chain has three items I’ve been know to order at once so I can have leftovers.  I can actually get five to seven meals from the three items.

  • A smothered brisket sandwich. The beef melts in your mouth. Provolone cheese. Caramelized onions. Barbecue sauce. On a great roll. (I’m very finicky about sandwich rolls.) The sandwich comes with fries.
  • Rough Road Pasta, which is penne, chicken, sausage, onions, roasted red peppers in a smoky tomato cream sauce and asiago cheese. I think they may have changed the recipe in the past year or so, because there seems to be less smoke and more heat. But it is still amazing.
  • Mac-&-Cheese Bonfire. It’s cavatappi pasta (kind of like rotini, but more substantial and not as tightly spiraled) in a creamy four-cheese sauce, topped with bbq pulled pork, fried onions, homemade buttermilk ranch dressing, and green onions. Heart attack on a plate.

I have been craving these four things for weeks.  I may have to get over my aversion to winter driving and do some curbside pickup.

Memory: The Start of a Family Tradtion

In late January of 1966, Central New York was hit with an epic blizzard that shut the area down for days. Here’s a link to some photos taken at the time.

I grew up in a rural area. My aunt, uncle and four cousins lived next door on one side, my grandmother and step-grandfather lived on the other side of us. My uncle and dad couldn’t get to their jobs, so there was lots of family time between efforts to dig out.  Here’s  a photo  of  my  dad  on  the  1934 Ford tractor  and  my  Grandpa  Jim  working  on clearing away  the snow.

It was during the blizzard that two of my family traditions began.

My parents pulled out the flour, sugar, eggs, and such and went on a baking spree. We worked together as a family. I recall my mom unearthing a cookie press she’d never used, finding a recipe for chocolate spritz cookies and using the cookie press to make them. They were wonderful. A pain to make compared to mom’s usual cookies (and my mom baked great cookies!), but worth the effort. And yes, my dad was also involved in the bake-fest.

The first lesson I learned was to always make sure there is a stockpile of food in the house come winter. Ingredients and basics. It’s a lesson I had to remind my son of when he moved out on his own. Even if you keep only cans of soup in the cupboard, make sure you have something to eat. You never know when a storm is going to hit. Which is why you’ll never find me out on the night before a predicted storm scrounging for bread and milk.  I’m always prepared.

The second lesson is that baking together during a snowstorm makes wonderful memories. Now, I didn’t often get to take snow days with my children, but the times I did, we pulled out a box or two of quick bread mix (I am not my mom) and baked together. I used the time to teach them fractions (if the recipe calls for half a cup, how many quarter cups should you use?) and other life skills. Plus we were spending time together. That was the important thing.

I hope their memories are as nice as mine.

Meal: Cheese and Pie Crust

My mom always baked:  bread, cookies, cakes, and pies, all from scratch.

As a child, I didn’t understand why she always made extra pie crust when it was pie day. When I got older,  her secret was revealed.

She would slice cheddar cheese, wrap it up in the “scraps” of pie crust, and bake it along with the pies. It was her secret indulgence. Once I discovered the absolute deliciousness of it, she had to make more.

Something so utterly simple was a real treat.