Ok, I thought I’d put up a picture from James Lilek’s Gallery of Regrettable Food to put an image on our Meatloaf Memories:
The meatloaf itself looks like we could count the rings and figure out when it was made. If that is not accurate enough, we can probably do some carbon-14 dating on that crust. All that work on those radishes! And no one will eat them…
I don’t know what that gold pot on the right is….rolls, maybe? Ice? But I am loving those salt and pepper shakers…very Space Age! They clearly need theme music!
The glow of those chicken wings indicates the sorrow of having chicken during the era of above ground testing of nuclear weapons. At least when you eat them you’ll irradiate any potential cancers you might get….
Those weirdo lumpy things with the lemon wedges between them? Disturbing what lobster looked like a mere 40 years ago…
Let’s end on that lovely gravy boat….mmmm….gravy!
This morning I woke up craving meatloaf for some reason. Not that I wanted meatloaf for breakfast, mind you….but maybe that wouldn’t be bad with a sunny side up egg on top and some hash browns on the side. Hmmm…
Oh. Yes, I’m writing a post. I drift back now to remember my mother’s meatloaf, which is indeed a fond memory. It had the right amount of hard crust that I don’t see enough on “modern” meatloaf. I remember it being peppery and more importantly, good days later. Does anyone still make meatloaf sandwiches? I remember those as well. I suppose we don’t…not “nouvelle” enough for us!
So why do I recount this to you, today? It occurred to me in sort of a shock one time that mom’s cooking was rather limited. She only made a few things, and those few things stayed in a rotation forever. There was no “experimenting” with cooking, except maybe cake baking. She was appalled when I went to cook at an Italian restaurant; all that garlic! I would come home from a shift in the restaurant smelling of garlic and she’d give me the evil eye which said I had to take a shower, but even after a shower I still smelled of garlic. The mother of the restaurant owner would give me things to take home for my family; salami, mortadella, soppersata, big chucks of parmesan, and I would be the only one who would eat it! I loved it all, but my family viewed it as alien. It’s strange to say in an American home, but pizza for us was a novelty. Only purchased, never made, pizza would be viewed as “acceptable” at best. It’s funny to think of how much we take what we currently do for granted and project backwards. I want to say my mother was a good cook, but is that so? But maybe she got it right; make half a dozen things really well, not a 100 things half assed.
But back to that meatloaf for breakfast idea….mmmmm……
This is a small memory….but one I’ve never forgot.
As kids we played a lot of baseball. A lot of baseball. Did we have organized leagues with adult supervision? Hell, no! Kids vs kids….we taught ourselves. And I’m certain we would have pounded the snot of formal little league teams; we played with a viciousness more associated with 19th century baseball than the polite sport we play today. By practice and constant reading we learned how to play the game right; bunting, baserunning, hitting the cut off man with throws from the outfield, reading pitches….if you didn’t learn this stuff you didn’t play. As a kid I had a good arm, so I played 3rd, right field, and would often pitch. I loved to pitch, but wasn’t very good at it because of control. And what we used to do as pitchers! Everything today that would be heavily frowned on! Breaking pitches, goofy curves, evil, evil, evil screwballs; I wonder how many of our pitchers wound up with messed up arms. Screwballs were the worst; you rotate your arm in the opposite direction of what is natural to get the strange break. I remember pitching 2 9 inning games one hot day and the next day my arm and shoulder were so sore it hurt to comb my hair. I lost track of the number of kids I hit in the head or ribs trying to pitch inside.
But this story is not about my numerous poor efforts on the mound; it’s about hitting. For years I used a thick handled 44 oz “Harry Heilmann” bat that didn’t have a knob on the end of it. I had to make a knob out of electrical tape! But that day….I had saved my pennies and bought a 32 oz slim-handled “Hank Aaron”. It felt like I was swinging a wiffle bat! I was ready to rip!
There was a big kid whose name I’ve forgotten who used to get me out all the time. I just couldn’t “read” him; I couldn’t tell his fastball from his curve or slider based on his release and I’d usually guess wrong. But with my new quick bat, I was seeing and guessing a lot better!
And then he threw me the pitch I’ve never forgot….I saw it before his hand came over the top of his shoulder and I said in my own voice in my head, “Well…there’s a nice fastball!” Almost 50 years later I can still hear and see that memory like it just happened. I could see the spin and the name of the league president on the ball as it headed plateward. Everything mechanical in my body “knew” what to do and I absolutely powered that baseball. The center fielder took two steps back and conceded it was way past him into the HR area. No showboating; I put my head down and ran out the HR. That pitcher gave me a lot of respect after that; he didn’t think I could do that to his pitches.
How many such little tiny victories do we get in life? The sublime melding of skills, opportunity, execution….it’s what we want in so many ways and never get. Something is usually missing. My whole life seems to me like a Wagnerian opera of failure; just when I think I couldn’t be stupider I prove myself wrong. But that day…..that at bat….that I’ll always remember. I suspect this is closer to the way we experience joy in sports than winning The Big Game, or The Championship.
The storm troops of cancer
burst in on the family dinner,
brute shoulder to the door
dull gray-green fabric tight
over meat malleus as bronze
smearing the candles,
dislocating the delicate jaw,
incinerating the snowflake of order
tatted by held-breath billions of years.
I see in the comment on the last post the request for stories from real life. I’ve been in the mood to write such a thing; forgive me if it seems like a shaggy dog story.
My favorite Chinese restaurant here in Ann Arbor, Middle Kingdom, is closed. I think the family retired a few years ago, and the place has sat since, though I guess it will be some kind of chain Greek place now. Ugh! I loved the food, and even though it was a bit pricey, it was worth it. I had a friend who used to live downtown and this would be a Sunday treat for us, always the same meal: Hot and Sour Soup for two, a single large entree and spring rolls.
Look at some of the cool “off menu” dishes they used to have. Just scroll the photos alone!
The guy who ran (owned?) the place was an older heavy set Chinese guy we used to call “Johnny”. because he quit trying to get us to pronounce his Chinese name. In a way he was kind of a Chinese Archie Bunker; no ethnicity, no economic class, or religious faith was spared his wrath. He had a way of grousing about….everything that was harsh, wise, and amusing all at once. I often wished I could have got him to a bar, but he was always wrapped up in family things. That family! Huge, and they all seemed to work in the restaurant. Johnny ran a tight ship; he was always barking at someone about some kitchen matter. But he was cool, good to talk to when business was light, and sharp about what was going on around town. He was one of those guys who grounded you to your town, your time, and your connection to a lot of things. I miss him and the place. It’s funny how it even affects your perception of the immediate area when the place you love is gone.
Two anecdotes to show you what I mean about him.
At Christmas, this was my favorite place to go. Chinese on Christmas! A NYC tradition moved out here. It was a madhouse on Christmas, the place filled with half the atheists and Jews in Ann Arbor. I came with a friend, and was waiting for my meal, with the place going full tilt, and Johnny having brought in every relative he could to work. One of his older sisters was having a hard time understanding a large Jewish family table who were talking too quickly and all at once for her to grasp what was being ordered. Johnny sees her frustration, comes storming across the place, points at me and says loudly “HEY RON! YOU SPEAK JEW?” Yikes! I’m immediately embarrassed, but I get what he asking me for. I go over to the table and just get people to talk one at a time, with me pointing to the written Chinese in the menu for her, which she quickly transcribes onto her order pad. When I’m done with my meal, Johnny won’t let me pay, gives me two thumbs up and a “Merry Christmas!”
The Ann Arbor Art Fair is a loud sweaty mess in the middle of July and the town closes many streets to let 500,000 tourists show up and stroll the many booths. Rather than get the overpriced street food, I decide to go to Middle Kingdom; I can sit in the AC rather than broil on the street. When I walk in for lunch….I’m the only person there! Johnny look like he’s been hit with an axe; “Why do I even bother?” he mutters like a hundred times. After that he goes on an epic rant about town and how cheap everyone is and why he needs to move to Chicago. I finally tell him to relax; people will come in when they get knocked out by the heat, and you know they love your stuff. He doubts every single thing I say; Gloom is his bride. Midway through my meal, people start to trickle in. By the time I’m almost done, the place has nearly filled, and Johnny is racing around flogging the staff. As I go to leave, he points both index fingers at me and says “YOU! I BLAME YOU!”, and gives me a huge grin, the only smile I ever remember seeing him give.
Hi there all…..I haven’t been around much….it’s been a strange few months, and not all has been good. The worst?
Living in a tent, in the rain, behind a grocery store, so sick I couldn’t pick myself off the ground and wound up call 911 and having 6 EMTs haul me out of the woods on a stretcher. Days were spent in the hospital….that time, the first of 3 visits to the ER in a week.
Things are better now…but not by much. A group of friends helped out in the short term….people I haven’t spoken to in 40 years. Remarkable! But I’ve been recovering most of the last month…it’s been pretty ugly.
But things have been pretty stressful/awful for a lot of people I know. It’s sobering to deal with a lot of suffering when there isn’t much you can do. Often the best thing I do is shut up and listen. Many is the time I wish I could reach out and hug a lot of these people when things go bad, but I can’t. You give them love….often just through the phone. So many of these folks are people I admire for a lot of reasons; they’re better people than I, is what I feel, and the least I can do is help them recover themselves so they can help the people who depend on them. I’m just me out here; I could fall off the earth and who’d know? (exempting the readers of this blog of course!)
Trump is giving me hope I can still be President! I have more hair! May need to get the teeth worked on though…
Ginger shows us how to go through life….flying over the rails!