Forgotten Foods

ADD wrote a forgotten foods piece about foods that were common at his family’s dinner table when he was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s that he no longer eats; I thought I’d do the same though I’m more than a decade older.

But before making my list, which will be relatively short, I’d comment on HIS list.

Rack of Lamb with Mint Jelly – had this on Easter Sunday for the first time in years. I’d forgotten how much I liked it.

Harvey Wallbanger Cake – don’t know if I ever had this. Certainly my mother didn’t make it.

Liver and Onions – when I was a bit anemic earlier this year, I went out and had liver with onions. Onions have to be sauteed. A half pound of liver and a whole package of frozen spinach. I liked it. Neither my wife or daughter were around, but my wife came home and could smell it, and I don’t mean the onions.

Chipped Beef on Toast – I’d forgotten about this. I did have this. Whether it was at my house, my grandmother’s, or at a restaurant, I don’t remember, but I do recall liking it.

Codfish – Yes, Alan, I do recall frozen cod, though in a paper box. Another one I haven’t had in decades.

Turkey Soup after Thanksgiving – Still happens at my in-laws’ house, and, on the rare time that Thanksgiving’s been at my house, at mine.

Spam – I know I bought this even in my twenties, but not for as long time.

Vienna Sausages – I know I ate them at some point in my distant past, but I can’t remember what they tasted like.

Beets – Specifically, can beets in my childhood. HATED them. HATED them. Had to eat them. Put mustard on them to kill the taste, which was only marginally successful. Beets to me are as broccoli was to GHWB; I’m a grown-up, don’t have to eat them. Did I mention I HATED them?

Mincemeat Pie – like ADD, served at Thanksgiving. Like ADD, I passed, though always took a bite to see if my taste buds had developed. After all, everyone said it was “good”, and it was pie. Usually, I like pie; not this time.

Filet Mignon – did NOT have in my childhood. Probably last had on my birthday two or three years ago.

Raw Oysters and Frogs Legs – Nope.

So, what else do I remember from my childhood? Canned everything.
Canned juice, mostly DelMonte; do they make that any more? You took a can opener made a hole in one side, a slightly smaller hole on the other and pour it right out of the can. Later, when we feared contamination from the “tin” can, poured it into a pitcher.
Canned waxed beans. Vile, unappetizing yellow beans. Tasted like, lessee – wax.
Also, canned carrots, peas, beans, spinach – canned spinach, despite Popeye’s claims, wasn’t very good.
Canned sweet potatoes.
The only thing we still have in cans are fruits and soups.

Suddenly, I’m not all that hungry.

Roger Answers Your Questions, Jaquandor

Jaquandor, who kindly plugged Ask Roger Anything asks:

1. List at least three movies that you love despite the fact that the world has united against them in abject hatred.

You mean like your love of Titanic? Initially, I was really hard pressed to think of one. OK, I did consider one, Continental Divide, with John Belushi and Blair Brown. The critics I read at the time savaged it. I went to Rotten Tomatoes to verify this, and what do I find? 75% positive; of course, that was only 6 out of 8 critics who liked it. Maybe it’s aged better. I have a great affection for the 1945 version of State Fair, while not pillaged (and regarded far better than the 1962 Pat Boone version), was rated only so-so compared to the 1933 version. Finally, Requiem for A Dream wasn’t exactly hated, but with its unrated status and difficult content, it’s no surprise that the 2000 film only did $2,546,851. Ellen Burstyn should have won the Oscar that year rather than Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich, though that might have been Julia’s best performance.

But then I remembered some movies I saw 30 years ago that I haven’t seen since – a 1977-78 trilogy of films of the Burt Reynolds/Sally Field oeuvre. Smokey and the Bandit, about running beer across county lines, with Jackie Gleason; The End, a comedy about bungled suicide, with Dom DeLuise; and Hooper, about a stunt man. My girlfriend at the time really liked them, and I found myself enjoying them as well in spite of myself.

And how about a film that I haven’t seen in 40 years? Mark Evanier lobbied for it to be released on DVD, and it is so. The Night They Rated Minsky’s – my first movie that I attended that was rated M for mature audiences; this later became GP, then PG. I remember who I saw it with: my friend Carol (not to be confused with my wife) and her friend Judy (for whom I had an unrequited crush). I remember the songs (You Rat You, Perfect Gentleman, the title tune, plus Take 10 Terrific Girls – But Only Nine Costumes, which I know by heart) because I own the soundtrack, on vinyl, given to me by my grandfather, a janitor at a radio station (WNBF, Binghamton, NY). He got it because the station was THROWING IT AWAY. I remember the opening, done by Rudy Vallee: “In 1925 there was this real religious girl, and by accident — she invented the striptease. This real religious girl. In 1925. Thank you.” I may have to watch the DVD just to see if the film, the first one with Elliott Gould and the last one with Bert Lahr, is as much fun as the soundtrack is or as good as I remember.

2. Since I assume you do a fair share of toy shopping these days, are there any toys you see out there that make you think, “Wow, I wish I’d had that when I was a kid!” Or, conversely, are you the type to go to an antiques store with your kid, see the toys you yourself played with, and subject your kid to lectures about how much better those toys were?

She has some toys, notably her train set which is much more sophisticated than anything I had, and her cars with a track, but I don’t covet them, mostly because, generally speaking, I’ve ODed on “stuff”.
Nor do I try to force my childhood on her, though she just got a ball and bat, not exactly a Wiffle ball, but similar. I suppose some day I hope she can appreciate the wonder that is Slinky, but I guess I don’t worry about it much. She seems happy so far with her stuffed bears, dolls, books, videos, puzzles, and coloring books for now.

3. What does the entire area of New York State west of, say, Troy have to do to get Albany to realize how bad things are out here?! (By “Albany” I mean of course our state government and not people who just live and work in Albany.)

Given the bath the state government has taken over the Wall Street crisis (Bear Stearns, et al.), recognition of the problem may not be the issue, it’s doing anything substantial about it.

4. Describe something that makes you laugh deep and hearty, despite the fact that few other people think it’s funny.

Bad puns. Henhouse Five Plus Two doing In the Mood like chickens; indeed anything that is done in the style of chickens. Ode to Joy per chicken. Smoke on the Water per chicken.

5. KFC: Original or Extra Crispy? (I prefer Original myself.)

And speaking of chicken: oh, original. The extra crispy tastes like cardboard. That said, can’t remember the last time I had KFC – it was since I’ve been married but before Lydia was born.
Actually, I have a historic fondness for KFC. On or around my 19th birthday at college in New Paltz, my roommate, my girlfriend, my best college friend and some others conspired with my parents (who came with my sisters from Binghamton, a couple hours away) to have a surprise party for me. I was surprised, in part because I walked into my room and my glasses steamed up. I took off my glasses to clean them and noticed over a dozen people in my room, none of whom I could make out – is that my father over there? They brought KFC, and there were leftovers that the poor college student ate over the next several days.

6. What scares you more: John McCain continuing George Bush’s foreign policy, or John McCain continuing George Bush’s economic policy?

You seem to suggest that George W. Bush HAS an economic policy. OK, the rich get richer. But even THAT’S not working very well lately. McCain has shown no grasp of economics at all. And it’s difficult to separate the foreign/defense policy of spend without ceasing from our economic woes. OK, I’ll pick foreign policy, because if we continue to isolate ourselves, that is NOT in our national interest.
Here’s the awful thing: I think John McCain has a very good chance of winning in November. I saw a poll recently and Clinton Leads Pack in Negative Ratings; moreover, in the self-selecting poll AOL had, the results were the same:
Clinton 28% positive, 61% negative, 11% neutral Total Votes: 650,265
McCain 42, 32, 26; 604,308
Obama 38, 47, 15; 618,110
Yes, McCain is the only one with greater positive than negative ratings. Also note the vote totals; more people went out of their way to dis Hillary than Barack or John. Meanwhile, the Hillary supporters are beginning to hate Barack, and vice versa, and threatening to vote for McCain, or no one in the general election. A huge number of women in particular will be most disappointed if Clinton loses and will opt out; likewise, Obama supporter, many young and/or black, will not embrace the former First Lady. I have a BAD feeling about this; I hope I’m wrong.

Oh, the woman in the picture: Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, who some tout as Vice-Presidential on the McCain ticket. “The first-ever woman Governor of Alaska, its youngest (44) governor, and the first to have been born after Alaska became a state. A onetime beauty queen, high school athlete, and TV reporter, Palin was elected mayor of Washila in 1996 and, two years ago, made national headlines by defeating present and past governors to win the state’s highest office.” Unfortunately, the pundits observe, Alaska only has three electoral votes and is likely to go Republican anyway. I STILL think McCain’s picking a governor or former governor as his running mate.



1. I was listening to the Coverville podcast this week. Brian played Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting by The Who from Two Rooms: Celebrating The Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin and noted that Elton John also covered the Who’s Pinball Wizard. So your mission, should you decide to accept, is to find other examples of besides these discovered by Fred Hembeck, my co-workers and me:

Beatles- You Really Got A Hold on Me
Smokey Robinson- And I Love Her

Elvis- Hey Jude (a pretty horrific version)
Paul McCartney- That’s Alright Mama, It’s Now or Never

Fats Domino – Lady Madonna
Paul McCartney – I’m in Love Again

Little Richard- I Saw Her Standing There
Beatles- Long Tall Sally, Hey Hey Hey Hey

Ray Charles – Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby
Beatles – Hallelelujah I Love Her So

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – And I Love Her
Beatles-You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me

Simon & Garfunkel – The Times They Are A-Changin’ (from Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.)
Bob Dylan – The Boxer (from Self-Portrait)

Tim Hardin – Simple Song of Freedom
Bobby Darin – If I Were a Carpenter, Lady Came from Baltimore, Reason To Believe

Versions should be commercially available (CD, mp3).

2. Mark Evanier wrote about the missing title tune to the animated Disney classic 101 Dalmatians, which I really enjoyed.

And I can relate, somewhat. When I bought the Yellow Submarine single, the lyrics went:
As we live a life of ease (a life of ease)
Every one of us (every one of us)
Has all we need (has all we need).
But on the Revolver album version, there’s no “a life of ease” echo. Finally, on one of those four-song “singles” CDs that came out at the time of the Beatles Anthology series, a version of Yellow Sub, with the “a life of ease” echo! I wasn’t crazy.

Now all I need is some proof that the Simon & Garfunkel song Bridge over Troubled Water is in a different key (or at least a different playback speed) on the single than it was on the album.
So, my question: what aspect of music, film, TV or other entertainment do you remember differently than is commonly recalled?


Roger Answers Your Questions, Gordon

Gordon, who knows I’ve met Rod Serling, asks these questions:

1) What’s your favorite Twilight Zone episode?

Certainly, Time Enough At Last with Burgess Meredith:

The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street with Claude Akins and Jack Weston, and A Game of Pool with Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters are up there. It’s a Good Life with Billy Mumy and The Dummy with Cliff Robertson and Frank Sutton scared me as a kid.
But perhaps, as a librarian, I relate most to The Obsolete Man with Burgess Meredith and Fritz Weaver, about librarians and religion and politics, which can be seen, in three parts, below:

Yes, it’s heavy-handed and preachy, but that’s OK by me.

2) What have you been asked to do professionally that has you going, “I can’t believe they pay me to do this?”

When I worked at the Schenectady Arts Council on a CETA grant in 1978 into January 1979, I was hired as a bookkeeper and to run a biweekly craft show, but there really wasn’t that much to do to fill 35 or 40 hours a week, though I was on the telephone selling ads for a benefit to revitalize Proctor’s Theatre for a couple weeks. So I found other things to take on. The dancer, Darlene, was teaching elementary school kids dance in the elementary schools, including disco, and she needed a partner, so I was drafted. The secretary, Susan, decided that she and I would go sing to the developmentally disabled from time to time. I loved that job, loved dealing with artists and musicians, and we stopped only because the money ran out.

3) What’s the deal with “Chocolate Rain”? I don’t get it.

You mean this thing that got 16 million hits and won some YouTube award?

Damned if I know. I have little idea WHY something becomes a hit on the Internet: LOLcats or lonelygirl15 – don’t really get it.
That said, let me spitball here. It may be the juxtaposition of the unexpected. This nerdy-looking black guy with a deep voice that one might not be anticipating, with lyrics that seem to be saying SOMETHING, but we’re not sure what; better play it again. Or maybe it’s that he’s put his listeners in a trance with the keyboards.
The footer to an e-mail I received yesterday (no, I don’t know the parties involved)-
Mr. Diefenbaker:…I mentioned the cost of living a moment ago, and while I speak the cost of living has gone up.
Mr. St. Laurent: You should stop speaking.


At the Old Ball Game

It’s baseball season already? Two games in the books, played in Japan, and a full slate starting next week. Weren’t some games postponed last year because of snow?

A baseball – will it blend?

Still, I love baseball. I love its traditions. I love its attention to arcane statistics. Speaking of which: What team and in what season did every player with over 300 at-bats had a batting average over .300, the only time in history this has happened?

Baseball is…. narrated by the legendary announcer Ernie Harwell – I have this on CD

The hardest part of the new season is finding out where players got traded to. I know pitcher Johan Santana signed with the Mets and that Mets OF Lastings Milledge was traded, but not much else.

A version of Abbott & Costello’s Who’s On First different from the version I own on CD

Baseball by Bill Cosby, from the album ‘To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With’

According to this story, actor Richard Widmark, who died this week, was the father-in-law of Dodger Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.

Baseball and Football by George Carlin: I own a different version on LP. This one seems more recent, more expansive. I most love that final description of football.

The answer to the trivia question: the 1930 St. Louis Cardinals. I did not know that; I would have picked the 1927 Yankees.
Oh, and it’s March Madness in college basketball. I know for nothing about it, yet managed to get 15 of 16 right on the first day. I picked Davidson over Georgetown! I picked Siena, located in Albany County, NY over Vanderbilt! And I still lead my pool. The bad news: I had Pitt going to the Final Four, losing to UCLA (with UNC beating Kansas, and UCLA over UNC). All my remaining picks are overdogs. Go, Bruins!


The Lydster, Part 48: Lydia is Four

Random thoughts for the occasion.

Lots of people say things like, “Can you believe it’s been four years? The time goes by so FAST!” Yes, I believe it’s been four years. I’m never quite sure what I’m supposed to say when folks utter such folk wisdom. Usually, I nod my head and say “Hmmm.”
I’ve been grousing about the early change of the clocks, which may not even save energy. Used to be that when I need Lydia to wake up at 6:20, so we can catch the 7 a.m. bus, I could just raise the shades, and she’d get up. But it’s DARK at what was 5:20 a.m., standard time, in March. She took a couple weeks to adjust to the new time. Heck, I’M still tired in the morning.

She definitely has a pecking order when it comes her playthings. Whereas all of her dolls (most of them called Hannah) used to rule, now it’s the stuffed bears (Elizabeth and TeddyTeddy) and the stuffed lamb. The dolls? “They’re just dolls!”, but the creatures are her “sisters”; very strange.

Lydia is one of the youngest kids in her class and one of the tallest. There may be a boy who’s taller, but he’s several months her senior. She is reasonably well, though she had had a touch of whatever was going around earlier this month. She’s only gained a pound or two in recent months, but is getting harder to lift. She’s been in a real hug and cuddle mood; I hear that this passes, so I shan’t complain.

She’s pretty smart. Some books she reads to me. I don’t think she’s actually reading them as much as reciting from memory based on the pictures, but it’s fun to be read to. She can count to 29; she stubbornly rejected my suggestion for “thirty” in favor of “twenty-ten”. She also knows what the color turquoise is, which I’m pretty sure I didn’t when I was four.

I still am not using the digital camera. These pictures were all on the same disposable camera I’d use then forget about, then use, then misplace. So it’s a lovely coincidence that it covers well the past few months of her life.

Happy birthday, Lydia!


Roger Answers Your Questions, Nik and Scott

Nik, the expat in New Zealand asks: I’ll go all deep — so has the coverage/reaction to the Obama campaign so far made you MORE hopeful about race in America or LESS hopeful?

Scott asks: Clinton aide Ferraro makes a racist-type remark about Obama, and the Clinton campaign barely has to say anything to be excused. The pastor of the church Obama attends (who is not working for Obama) makes racist-type remarks, and Obama has to continually distance himself from them. It seems obvious to me that racism is even present in this scenario. How do you feel about these events?

OK. Let me try to answer this in a coherent way, because I’ve found the last week rather mind-boggling. First, I’ve long thought that Barack Obama’s attempt to run a campaign for President of the United States without race being a major issue was incredibly naive and/or disingenuous. I didn’t think that country is/was “post-racial” enough for that. I figured that, sooner or later, race would come to the fore. And it did, in subtle ways with Bill Clinton comparing Obama’s South Carolina win to Jesse Jackson’s; hey, they’re both black. But here’s the thing: as much as Barack has tried to downplay it, pssst, he is partly black.
And notice how well Obama’s done among the different constituent over time. He wowed ’em in Iowa, a largely white state, which made some black Americans nervous. But once it appeared the Hillary Clinton campaign was trying to paint Barack as black, playing, if you will, the “race card”, he became the “black” candidate. The Mississippi primary is instructive, as Obama got about 90% of the black vote and less than 30% of the white vote.
The Jeremiah Wright situation was problematic not just for the reverend’s rhetoric but because it reminded people once again: he goes to a black church; he must be…black!
Geraldine Ferraro was clumsy in her wording. She could have said something like “the black community must be very proud how well Barack is doing” and gotten across the same message – that he’s a black man – and still be on the Hillary team.
So, Nik, in answer to your specific question – am I MORE hopeful about race in America or LESS hopeful? – the answer is yes. I thought it was a GREAT speech that Obama gave last week, one that made me MORE sure of Obama than before, but as I noted here, it’s been misinterpreted or heard merely in soundbites.
Scott, I don’t know that the coverage is racist as much as it’s “If it bleeds, it leads” inflammatory. The perception I’m getting that, OK, he’s the Obama pastor for 20 years; let’s say he was sitting in the pews for 50 weeks a year. This means that Barack and his wife heard this “God Damn AmeriKKKa” rhetoric 1000 times AND subjected their daughters to it dozens of times as well. The assumption seems to be that’s the sermon topic EVERY week, which is clearly not the case by all informed reports. So Barack, a state senator in Springfield, 200 miles and over 3 hours away from Chicago for a number of years before being in Washington, DC, probably hadn’t heard hundreds of examples of vitriol, as the case seemed to be painted.

Finally, slightly off the topic, I started attending a (predominantly white) church in Albany in June 1982, started attending regularly in January 1983, became a member in December 1984, and took on leadership roles in the church. Stuff happened often – I won’t get into it here, but it involved the pastor – but it wasn’t until February 2000 that I largely stopped attending, and I was still going to meetings at my old church as late as August 2000. It wasn’t until 2002 that I ended my membership with my old church and joined my new one. So I sympathize greatly with the notion that one just doesn’t abandon one’s church lightly, for the people are the church, not the pastor.


iTunes MEME

From Johnny B.:

Instructions: Open up your iTunes and fill out this survey, no matter how embarrassing the responses might be.

How many songs total: 829
How many hours or days of music: 2.1 days

Most recently played: Billy Joel- Elvis Presley Boulevard
Most played: Simon & Garfunkel – A Simple Desultory Philippic
Most recently added: Mike Nesmith, Complete First National Band Recordings

Sort by song title:
First Song: About a Girl-Nirvana
Last Song: Zydeco Gris Gris- BeauSoleil

Sort by time:
Shortest Song: “Eat for Two” 10,000 Maniacs (cut off)(0:16); Holiday Greetings from Hello (Hello Family Santa Special) (0:20)
Longest Song: 17:07 (some unidentified noodling song; in fact the 11 longest songs are all unknown)
Longest song I can actually identify: Africa Talks to You (8:45) Sly & the Family Stone from There’s a Riot Going On

Sort by album:
First album: Amandla! soundtrack
Last album: Toy Story 2 soundtrack

First song that comes up on Shuffle: Graceland- Willie Nelson

Search the following and state how many songs come up:
Death – 0
Life – 15
Love – 56
Hate – 2
You – 76
Sex – 2


Roger Answers Your Questions, Scott and GayProf

Happy Easter! Appropriately, I’m answering questions from a couple of good eggs.

Scott, who I recently offered a few questions to, has responded in kind.

1. Who do you think will win the NL East this year?

Why, the M-M-M-M-Meh-Meh-Meh-Meh. I’d rather not say; I don’t want to jinx them. They have a new front-line pitcher which should avoid that near-record collapse from last year.

2. Who is your favorite singer?

Gee, that’s hard. I like lots of different singers for a lot of different moods. People such as Nat King Cole and Sam Cooke certainly would be on the list, but so would a lot of rockers. I find it difficult to separate the vocal from the material. Mike Love of the Beach Boys has a bit of a nasally sound to his voice, yet those BB songs on which he sings lead work for me. Other living singers? Cassandra Wilson immediately comes to mind.

3. Who is your favorite comic book hero? (Gay Prof adds: “I hope the answer to question number 3 from Scott is Wonder Woman.”)

Oh, GP, I so do hate disappointing you. Let me explain how I got into comics in college. A new friend of mine collected them. I thought he was crazy, then I started looking at them. The first one I bought was Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1. I thought he was pretty cool. (Later, he decided to change his name to the boring Power Man, and my interest waned.)
Luke Cage appeared in the shadows of Amazing Spider-Man #122 and was on the cover of #123, which got me interested in the webslinger. At about the same time, I was interested in Sub-Mariner #50 (or so) at a point when Bill Everett, the golden age artist who had created Namor, returned to the book. In fact, Sub-Mariner was the first book I sought out back issues of. I got into the Defenders because Namor was in it, then the Avengers because of the Defenders-Avengers war. So I was a Marvel zombie. I’d say my favorites are Spider-Man, Namor and Luke Cage, but I discount anything that might have happened in the last decade or so.
Conversely, I really wasn’t interested in the mainline DC superheroes that eventually bored me in my childhood (Superman, Batman, Flash). By the time I DID look at Wonder Woman, she wasn’t even wearing the star-spangelled garb. These stories were so damn EARNEST – they marketed some of them as “Women’s Lib” issues – their term, not mine. I owned this particular issue, maybe my first, but didn’t stay with it long, I’m afraid, GP.

4. What was your favorite subject in school?

Spelling. Eye wuz allwayz a gud speler. And math. I always liked arithmetic and algebra. I like how if you have a long number and the digit adds up to nine, then it’s divisible by nine. Numbers are magic. I’m more likely to remember someone’s phone number than someone’s name.

5. What was the toughest subject for you in school?

Shop. I had it in seventh and eighth grade – wood, ceramics and something else. The wood items never came out evenly; the ceramic things kept blowing up in the kiln. Strangely, ninth grade metal shop wasn’t so bad, maybe because the tools were more precise so I couldn’t muck things up so much.

GayProf: My question would be what food is your ultimate “comfort food?”

Mac and cheese. My wife makes it, grating the cheese. We’re not talking blue boxes of Kraft here.

Scott, I’ll answer your other question soon; it’s tied into Nik’s, and should best be answered together.


Sex, drugs and politics QUESTION

Here’s a promise for you: I’m never running for elective political office. You never know what skeletons, or even perceived skeletons, might pop up. Well, maybe when I’m 70, when I will be able to honestly say, “I don’t remember” when asked about my presumably sordid past.

I’m thinking about this because New York’s NEW governor, David Paterson, is caught up in some sexual infidelity. Truth is, I don’t much care because it’s none of my business, and, unlike his predecessor, “I’m a f***ing steamroller” Spitzer, he hadn’t set the morals bar so high that his affairs are major disappointments. Mostly because most people outside of Albany didn’t even know who David Paterson was until a little over a week ago. In any case, he’s likely to survive this politically because he would be succeeded by the Senate Majority Leader, who is a REPUBLICAN, Joe Bruno.

This begs the questions:
1) How much of a person’s personal life should be open to the public when he or she is considering running for public office?
2) How far does one get to dig about someone’s history and place as relevant? I recall that GWB said some years ago that he had not done certain drugs (cocaine, I believe) in the previous 25 years, answered in such a way that it suggested that perhaps he HAD used it earlier than that. As much as I dislike GWB politically – and I mean a WHOLE lot – I don’t much care about an old drug bust.