Candy Freak Posted by Hello
The lovely Bakerina gave me this book recently during one of our roasted chicken and sangria evenings at Pio Pio, mt favorite Peruvian chicken place. I devoured the book and now, of course, must testify about my own candy freak-y behavior.
Growing up in a small town in CT, I was down the street from a small general store called Phil's. Phil's was run by five different elderly women each one with white hair and blue eyes. They sold stuffed animals, small ceramic figurines, games, models, and penny candy. When I was say penny candy, I mean real penny candy. The kids in the neighborhood and I would trudge up the hill (if you saw this hill, you would realize what a harship this was) and take our twenty-five cents and deliberate, and for what to our parents if we conned them into stopping on the drive home what seemed an interminable length of time, about what to buy. We would get a little box and use tongs to pick out from the thirty small jars our candy ration for the week. It was here that I developed my taste for swedish fish, red dollars, cows eyes, squirrel nut zippers, and mary janes. Later when I got more money, I would pick out packets of sweettarts, nerds, and bottle caps ( I was a big fan of Wonka candy).
( All of things sold at Phil's would become popular with the kids at one point: first stuffed animals, then ceramic figures, next stickers, then models, and finally ceramic figures to show one was finally a young lady. Of course once Middle School began Phil's was forgotten for the 24 hour store which sold Slush Puppies, Hostess Cakes, and, my personal favorite, Mello Yello.)
The lure of candy was so strong that my mother used it one Halloween. My mother and I made a real scarecrow out of cornhusks. We stuffed the itchy husks into the overalls and shirt. Suddenly when the scarecrow was complete, I became terrified. The scarecrow was meant to be an indoor decoration for the Halloween party we were throwing. It remained in our study, but I refused to enter. My mother couldn't understand it. She tried reasoning, she tried showing me, but I wouldn't go into the room. Finally she put lollipops in the scarecrows pocket. After two days, she noticed a missing lollipop. She replaced the pop. Over time, more and more pops went missing until finally I entered the room without being afraid of whatever heinous acts a scarecrow could commit. The scarecrow became tradition as did the lollipops in his pocket.
Big holidays like Halloween and Christmas meant not only a large quantity of candy, but good quality as well. I had a drawer in the kitchen. It was my candy drawer. It was where I kept my bounty from Halloween or Easter depending on the time of year. The candy from Phil's would find a temporary home there, but it was mainly to stretch out large amounts of candy over a long period. Often my candy would go bad. I would try to stretch out christmas candy canes until easter or easter peeps until, well, until June and end up with some sort of sugary cure of cancer. The smaller items jelly beans, malted chocolate eggs, crispy santas, all were eaten fairly quickly. It was the items I really liked, the ones I wanted to be able to savor when I really needed to, which would find a bad fate. I would try to save marshmallowed filled chocolate eggs until the end of the school year, which was always stressful. Finally the day would come and I would open the candy drawer to find a fine layer of melted marshmallow coating the drawer and adhesing all of the other candy to the bottom.
The candy that I liked the best was from a local chocolatier called Munson's. We drove by it often and there were always tours of the facility. They made great chocolate including my favorite chocolate covered pretzels. My mother was a fan of the rocky road, and so for christmas and easter I would get chocolate covered pretzels, a slab of rocky road and a chocolate bunny. My mother always wanted a piece of the rocky road. I never understood why she just wouldn't buy herself some when she bought mine. (Later I realized she probably did and then ate it all on the way home.) But I wouldn't begrudge my mother chocolate ( although I was fierce about the pretzels, I was fairly generous with the chocolate bunny). In fact strangely over the years I have lost my taste for plain milk chocolate, even quality milk chocolate. I would eat the ears off my chocolate bunny and donate the rest to my grateful mother. Now I wouldn't even do that, my chocolate must be cut with nuts or crispies or caramel.
It's been a long time since I've been to Munson's ( you could smell the chocolate in the parking lot), but I still salivate when thinking of those chocolate covered pretzels, although Neutchatel's chocolate covered potato chips are a kind New York consolation. ( The same combination of salty and quality chocolate). But the truth is I am not a real candy freak, my grandmother is. With her high blood sugar, she shouldn't even think about chocolate, and yet stashed all over the house are boxes of Russell Stover samplers and bags of Milky Ways and Three Musketeers. She hides them under the couch, behind sofa cushions, under the linens in the closet. A casual search for paper towels may reveal not just one bag but several in different locations. A person invited to sit on the couch may hear the tell tale crinkle of cellophane as he or she settles into the cushions.
As Steve Almond correctly claims, candy is a great unifier. You can get people going about candy from their hometown or childhood. The chalky evilness of the conversation hearts, the fear surrounding the red M&Ms, the supposed link between smoking and gum cigarettes. Even now the lovely Bakerina and I are planning quests to Econo candy for goo goo clusters and Dylan's candy bar for abba zabbas and Look bars. Hopefully this weekend, you will find me surrounded by wrappers totally incoherent except to repeat over and over again "Mmmmmmmm.....chocolate."

University of Atlantis: Go Sea-Monkeys! Posted by Hello
University of Atlantis: Go SeaMonkeys!
Those devoted to these pages may have noticed the sudden vanishing of UDR ( Upside Down Russian) when he was once such a presence in this blog. Well I should probably comment on that absence. I spoke to UDR before I went to Paris and he commanded me to return to the US. Those were his words, "I command you." My response was if IF I returned on time, he better be at my place to listen to all my stories.
I came back on time, I called, I couldn't go anywhere what with babysitting my swollen ankle, other people seemed somewhat interested in my stories, but they had the same re-action ( Delta lost your luggage going TO Paris? I don't know why this is so hard to believe, but it is apparently.) I was looking for someone who would listen with enthusiasm, and UDR, for all his faults, was the most likely candidate.
Except he had vanished, gone, curled up his tootsies and vamoosed to parts unknown. Until Saturday night he called me on the phone at 4:30 in the morning demanding that I immediately remove the Atlantis material from my blog ( It took him three weeks to notice and it wasn't until someone else informed him about the material being posted). He was adamant. I refused and hung up on him. ( Mind you after an hour of arguing back and forth before realizing you can't argue with crazy because crazy always wins.) The next day he sent me an email "forgiving" me and claiming it was my choice to leave the material up. I blocked him from my email and left the material up an extra day before adding my next post.
Our relationship is now strangely strained. When I see him he goes out of his way to be nice to me, and I barely acknowledge he exists. This may be some what related to the fact that I have recently met Alexei the crazy Ukrainian-who isn't so much crazy as a master of entertaining facial expressions-and Constantine the aristocratic Roumanian ( think Adrian Brody without the tan)-so my bizarre eastern block accent fetish still has some fulfillment.
And that would be the end of that, EXCEPT I have a habit of doing odd google searches when I should be doing things like you know grading papers or preparing my statement of purpose for grad apps or even maybe enjoying the sunshine outside. I happened to casually google Atlantis and what comes up but a "new theory" written by a Russian about how Atlantis was really off the coast of Ireland ( In fact, I even found the original paper in Russian-not that I can read it.)
Viatcheslav Koudriavtsev's paper is very well reasoned and supported. He no doubt did his research, and unlike UDR who ties his theory to the flood in Genesis, VK ties his case very closely to Plato, whose works contain the first known references to Atlantis. VK's theory came out in 95, which means that for all of UDR's arm waving that I had violated the natural order and would be punished severely for writing about such sacred matters, it turns out, much like the X-files, that theory was already out there (I refuse to call it the truth).
True VK does nothing to tie the destruction of Atlantis to eugenics ( including the engineering of pigs to be like human flesh) as UDR has, there is enough "innovation" and embroidery added to VK's theory that UDR isn't competely guilty of plagiarism the idea.
The truth is as much as I mocked the idea, I really love the idea of being an Atlantean. In keeping with my new ( would be racial? ethnic?) heritage, I would like to propose a t-shirt. A sea blue t-shirt with U of A on the front-the back it says on top University of Atlantis-there should a picture of a SeaMonkey wearing a varsity jacket holding a football with the slogan Go SeaMonkeys on the bottom.
I would wear it until it falls apart.

A Tribute to Bakerina:Comfort Food
I am giving homage here to Bakerina because I am going to steal, let's be honest, yes steal, her usual format. I am going to write about food and then I am going to supply you all with a recipe, but I wanted to make it clear where the inspiration came from.
When I was growing up, when my parents were still married, we had family dinners, the everyone sit down and talk about what happened during the day type of dinners. My mother supplied lovely meals. She made swordfish with a spicy tomato sauce, lamb chops, roast beef, spicy tomato soup, and pasta with maninara sauce. Her specialty was chinese food. Don't ask me how a girl from rural PA who married a Jew for NJ developed this excellent skill, but go with me on this one. My mother makes spicy chicken dumplings that could make angels weep. Really. I enjoyed my mother's cooking a great deal, the spicy sesame noodles, the chicken with walnuts, the snow pea stir fry.
When my parents got divorced, my mother stopped cooking. The reasons, she was now a single mother working a very demanding executive job, were legitimate enough, but I missed the meals and so my mother gave me her recipes and got a subscription to gourmet magazine and told me to learn how to cook.
I lived in rural CT. I mean RU-RAL. There was nothing to do after nine pm ( except maybe loiter outside the 24 hour store which was a 25 minute drive away and aside from the slush puppie machine not all that exciting). So I started cooking late at night. Often I would start cooking at eleven, eleven thirty at night. As I insisted on making gourmet food, often I would finish at one or two in the morning. My mother would wake up to find dishes in the sink, but also her dinner in the fridge.
First I tried my mother's recipes, but I didn't have the flair she did for chinese. I discovered, through effort, that my talent lay in french food. Chicken in white wine, steak with mustard cream, potatoes in heavy cream, carrots drenched in butter. If it was high fat, I could make it. Later I discovered I also did very well with Mexican and Italian. Over the years I have experimented with dishes-played around until I have perfected a dish. ( One of my favorite dishes is a refried bean dish that can be used for vegetarian tacos, bean dip, or bean spread for chicken quesedillas-it's also a floor wax-no no sorry that was this spread)
One dish I discovered I could make well very early on was a minestrone altered from the NYT Bread and Soup Cook Book. It takes about three hours. I would start at eleven and start the two hour simmering around 12:30 or 1 am. Often I would lie on the couch while the soup simmered and watch crappy two am Joe Bob Brigg's rejected sci-fi channel movies (ie the ORIGINAL Attack of the Eye Creatures -called Attack of the SaucerMen which is not to be confused with the Attack of the Eye Creatures featured on MST3K-that was a remake). Occassionally I would get up and stir the pot-listen the crickets in the backyard-half an hour before it was ready I would taste for salt (did it have enough?) and add the pastina.
That minestrone was a signature dish. My mother and I tried minestrone in almost every restaurant we come across and I haven't found a restaurant that comes close. My mother often gets frenzied when I announce that I will be making the minstrone. I made it often through high school and college, but I haven't made it in years. Honestly, I haven't been much of a cook lately. ( Lately in this case being the last three years.) But then the last two weeks I have experienced a rennaissance. I went and purchased all the elements for my famous minestrone, and I spent saturday night slowly simmering the leeks, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peas. In keeping with tradition, I started around eleven, watched Hurly Burly while it simmered ( nothing like watching Sean Penn engage in unending semantic argumentation with Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Spacey, and Gary Shandling to inspire good soup-in keeping with tradition I chould have watched my DVD of Pitch Black, but well that film hardly inspires hunger while the constant cocaine binging in HB at least kept me awake until 2), and finally had a fresh steaming bowl (it's always better the next day, but I can't resist having one bowl immediately) at two in the morning.
It's well worth the three hour wait.
recipe to come tomorrow...

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