It’s that wonderful time of year; time to drive people crazy with “punny” humor.
I started this years ago, when I was working with elementary, middle, and high school students (and quite a few college students, too). Pouring over old, used joke books, I would select prime puns and share them at our events just to get a groan. Elephants started it.
How do you get an elephant out of the water?
I know. But most people grin a little bit.
And that was my point. I was a one-woman crusade against the cruel, snide, hurtful “jokes” that float around so effortlessly. I was making my own small point about the sarcasm-couched-as-wit that haunts us in prime time television and other forms of media.
Kids are prime (don’t excuse the pun) candidates for this tripe. It’s the McDonald’s marketing plan: snag them when they’re young and you have a customer for life. Unfortunately, adults aren’t much more discerning . Once we get a hold of a bad habit, it’s hard to let go.
It was easy for me to start posting the jokes on Facebook. Pretty soon, I had a following of students begging me to stop, which I did one year right after Halloween.
Biding my time, I waited until Thanksgiving rolled around. And I sprung them again.
Q: Why did the turkey sit on the tomahawk?
A: To hatchet.
A: A rebel without a Claus.)
Don’t we have enough of that?
It’s a trivial thing, I know. What is this actually doing? It’s like people say these days: “First world problems.” But I think it is a first world problem; we’re often not nice and we don’t care who suffers the butt of our jokes.
Today’s “fine, fine line” is long and thin. When I was a kid, you couldn’t talk about flatulence, underwear, or your parents without a reprimand. These are so accepted now, it seems Puritanical to protest.
My college students don’t even agree with me on swear words. They say “pissed” and “bitch” aren’t cursing. Those phrases were squashed by the FCC and George Carlin.
At any rate, whenever I bring these little treasures back, I get a great response. Oh, it’s not my original humor – my own bit of fun is seeking them out. I’m just spreading the pumpkin seeds of humor, the Jeri Appleseed of puns and jokes.
It’s a one woman revolution. I’m only joking.
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right.
(The Beatles: “Revolution”)
It’s time for comfort food, isn’t it? Perfect, crisp fall days. Work in the yard and around the house, preparing for winter. Football, in the background, on TV. Delicious cider and apples.
And flashback food.
My good friend, Mary, gave me this darling little cookbook. It’s purple with white polka dots and says, The Detroit News Menu Cook Book*. Apparently, menus were tough to assemble back in the Great Depression. The book is small – the pages are 5×8″ – conserving paper.
Its forward cites the “magic of radiotelephony,” as the News was producing shows like Hints for Housewives and Tonight’s Dinner by Radio. The recipes are extensions of the shows, broadcast as an “intimate chat with women in their homes.”
I suppose, somewhere out there, one of you is thinking of this as an intimate chat, although most media (to me, at least) seems as far away from intimate as can be.
But sharing food is intimate – it sends a message, conveys levels of caring, speaks to the heart.
You won’t find these Baby Porcupines prickly – they’re easy and tasty. I made the Corn Meal Rolls that were in the menu, but the rest is better left to the past (buttered onions, orange and lettuce salad, cottage pudding and fruit sauce).
The very next page calls for finnan haddie (I looked it up – it’s haddock) and parsley potatoes…again, not making the grade, here, but there’s a recipe for French chocolate you may see during the holidays.
Until then, enjoy an intimate dinner with family or friends.
Your complete menu? Add a spring greens salad, very light, with a nice garlic salad dressing. Try a nice piece of dark chocolate or pumpkin bars for dessert.
I’ll type this the way they wrote it – you’ll see that they were also conserving type space with the ingredients listing. My adaptation are in italics.
One pound ground round steak, 1 cup bread crumbs, 1 egg, 4 tablespoons chopped onions, 2 tablespoons chopped green pepper (4 tablespoons), 1 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper (1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper), 3/4 cup raw rice, 1 cup tomato soup or puree (puree is a “purer” ingredient, but if you’re a soup lover, go for it), 2 cups boiling water. (Do add all the water. I was skeptical, but the rice needs it and you’ll love the sauce.)
Mix all but last 3 ingredients. Shape into small cakes (3″ loosely rolled balls, see photo) and roll in uncooked rice. Heat soup and water in heavy pan with tight-fitting cover. Dutch oven is ideal for this (cast iron skillet, making sure to allow space around each for better cooking, wrapped with foil). Place cakes in tomato mixture, cover and cook slowly 45 minutes or until meat is tender and rice is done (350º for 45-55 minutes).
This made about 1 dozen meatballs. A good serving size is 2-3. You might like extra rice on the side. Garlic lovers may be saying, “Gee, why not add it?” These were very flavorful and tasty; you’d likely be masking the onion and pepper flavors. But it’s yours to try.
Corn Meal Rolls
One and one-fourth cups flour, 2 tablespoons fat (used Crisco, but I might try softened butter), 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup corn meal, 4 teaspoons baking powder.
Sift together dry ingredients. Rub in shortening (cut in with a pastry cutter). Add well beaten egg and milk. Roll out (at least an inch thick). Fold over as for Parker House rolls, brush tops with beaten eggs or milk (I tried milk…think I would try melted butter and a little dust of sugar). Bake in hot oven, 400 degrees, 10 minutes.
After rolling, the dough may also be cut with a small biscuit cutter, placed on a greased baking sheet, and baked for bisuits. (I did this style, as I’ve never made a Parker House roll, but I’d probably try folding them over the next time. My husband liked them with the sauce, as a whole bite of food.)
*by Myrtle Calkins, © The Detroit News, Printed in the United States of America at the Lakeside Press
It’s a widely known fact, at least between my family and friends, that I love getting ready for the holidays. It could be a childhood thing. We had some good ones: ones that took us back to the farm, into the arms of family, filled with food and faith.
It doesn’t really explain, though, why I love to decorate for them. People do, I know, but most of theirs appear sweet and bright and sparkley. My collection seems a little macabre, a little dark, a little creepy for little kids.
For quite a few years I was a Quester, so I was surrounded by members’ vintage and antique pieces. Some are lovely enough to make you weep, true art within the collectors’ homes: old candy containers and Belsnickles from Germany, paper ornaments from Beistel, celluloid statues. Except for a few pieces in moderate condition, I could not enter the market.
But even before that, and certainly after, I’ve continued to assemble collections of Halloween and Christmas that are slightly vintage, slightly primitive, and a whole lot haunting. Oh, I have Easter, too, but it’s a lighter, springtime affair that tends away from the stories of haunting, of want, of characters that frighten, like ghosties and jack-o-lanterns and an old man who sees you when you’re sleeping, who knows when you’re awake.
Likely, my vivid imagination has allowed me to develop a world where past legends and lore collide with colonial decor. I love to read about Victorian holiday traditions, to picture children carrying carved turnips and gourds in an era when science hadn’t explained away the bogey-man and left something more terrifying – truly evil people – in his place.
No small thing, I also like that Halloween exists for candy and for children, and for celebrating the harvest after the bounty of summer. One is not required to assemble one’s family, buy gifts, then frenetically entertain. On Halloween night, as the sky deepens into purple, then black, in the brisk chill evening air, we light our porches and encourage mini ghouls and goblins up for treats. It’s magic.
If you try, you can feel an arm reaching out from the past, through the murky shadows, grasping hold, connecting us. I’m happy at Halloween.
Shots of our house. My kids like it best at this season.
Don’t ever underestimate the deliciousness that is a basic, classic meal.
Oh, we’re all tempted to be attracted to the trendy and tiny micro-portions from time to time. We love junk food. As you know, I am a huge fan of salt & vinegar potato chips: 8 chips, from the bag, on the way home from the grocery.
There’s the thrill of a great stuffed sub sandwich, the decadent nacho platter, and a freshly fantastic goat cheese salad. But, in all this, our go-to 1950’s food still holds a place when you need satisfying sustenance.
It has the benefit of looking great on a plate, too.
My son, Sam, recently called for details on cooking bone-free chicken. I’m guessing there are some new cooks, out there, who also need this info. Add some garlic-mashed red potatoes and a simple green salad. And kiss the hip cuisine and fast food goodbye.
Baking Boneless Chicken
1-2 lbs boneless chicken breasts
1 bottle (12-16 oz) decent barbeque sauce
salt & pepper
Place your rinsed and (patted) dry chicken breasts in a 9×13 inch baking pan, brush with barbeque sauce, sprinkle w/ salt & pepper, and bake 20-25 mins in a 350° oven. Or, bring the grill up to moderate heat and (after coating w/ sauce, s&p) bake, covered, 15-20 minutes (check inside for doneness).
Smashing Red Potatoes
2-3 pounds small red skinned potatoes*
butter (1/2 stick on hand)
chives or green scallions
salt & pepper
Wash potatoes. Place in a pan with enough water to cover all potatoes. Add 1-2 T salt to water. Boil potatoes until tender (when you poke w/ a fork, skin will break and fork will sink in neatly – if you can’t tell by this, take one out, cut it, and try it). Remove from heat, pour off excess water, and mash (in pan – saves bowls). Add 2-3 T butter at a time, continuing to mash to a course texture. Add a little milk, if you like them creamier (or even, gasp, real cream), but it’s not necessary. S&P to taste.
*We leave the skins on ours – they’re prettier this way – but if you you want to peel them, go crazy.
Simple Green Salad
This is so easy these days, it’s almost criminal. Buy pre-washed spinach or microgreens, some heirloom or regular grape tomatoes, peel, seed, and slice a cucumber (many people have digestive problems with the seeds, and they make the salad watery). Toss a few croutons on top – we used a lovely bleu cheese dressing, grinding black pepper on top.
Can I say something about today’s culture and the concept of underestimation?
It’s all too common. We’ve become “wowed” by the unusual, the bizarre, the alternative, the strange. We’ve almost become so bored, so filled with ennui, that as a group, we almost can’t recognize what’s plain, solid, and true.
Don’t let yourself be swayed, friend.