They are blaring haunted-house music from the neighbors' house where they go ape for Hallowe'en. The kids put up gravestones and the dad gets out the chainsaw. It is a zoo! They are playing a mix of Moussorgsky and modern symphonic music and '80s rock. Right now it is "Another One Bites the Dust." I have not heard that song in years!
Back to the subject of, ahem, music. Today and yesterday we did special Hallowe'en Zumba. We got to dance to "Monster Mash" and "Ghostbusters." And we did the Zombie Walk this morning, to some Michael Jackson song. "Freestyle zombie walk," the teacher instructed. We were all Zombie Walk-ing around the room laughing. I was laughing so hard I could hardly move.
It is funny how your life is only two steps away from kindergarten, you know? I leave Latin Mass where I have been contemplating all kinds of otherworldly sacred things and next thing you know I am in gym class and doing the Zombie Walk.
They are promising Christmas Zumba before too long. We are going to be Zumba-ing to Christmas songs. "Feliz Navidad"? Just a wild guess.
All of a sudden I realize I am going through the seasons with Zumba. In the summer it was "Twisting By the Pool" and now it is "Monster Mash" and before long it will be "Feliz Navidad."
How the days pass!
Speaking of which it was three years ago today I flew to California to spend those months with Pennario.
Howard took me through the cellar of Big Blue to show me the coal ash he has been shoveling. There is a whole room filled up with coal ash and he has been shoveling it out bit by bit. While I am writing about Leonard Pennario that is what Howard is doing, moving his ash. Sorry, I could not help that!
Above is a picture of the project. That is what it looked like when I saw it tonight.
Parts of the cellar date to the 1850s and it being Beggars Night, right before Hallowe'en, one problem I had, I could not stop thinking about Tom Bauerle's ghost show the other day and some of the stories that were told.
One of them was about a cellar! It was about the cellar in the Millonzi House, on Symphony Circle.
This woman talked about how a friend of hers worked in telemarketing for the Buffalo Philharmonic back when they had their offices in the Millonzi House ...
... which is right across the street from Kleinhans Music Hall. I picked up on that because I used to have a roommate back then who worked there, too.
The caller told Bauerle that her friend had the job of locking up the Millonzi House. So one night they were ranging around. They went down in the cellar because the house had the reputation of being haunted and they wanted to see what they could see.
And what they saw was a black mist!
It formed in the middle of the room, this concentrated black mist, and began swirling around. Imagine that. Imagine you are standing there in this cellar and this black mist appears. I got tears in my eyes just hearing about it. My eyes fill with tears when something gives me the shivers.
Naturally they decided to get out of there. So they went running up the stairs. This woman said her friend, this guy, went running up the stairs but there was this landing on the way up. And the black mist shot up the stairs after him and caught him on the landing and slammed him against the wall!
"His feet left the ground!" she said.
Bauerle has the funniest appreciation for stories like this. "Wow!" he said. "That is so cool!!!"
His question after that was: "Can the Bills draft the black mist?" Hahahahahaha!
But if you were there with that mist it would have been no laughing matter.
Here is my problem with ghost stories like this. Technically I believe in ghosts, although my experience with them has been, shall we say, limited. I believe in ghosts because a lot of people through history have seen them and besides, I believe in a life after this one, so they make sense.
If I ever saw and experienced anything AT ALL approaching what those people supposedly saw and experienced in the Millonzi House, I do not think I would ever be quite right again.
You cannot just go to sleep that night after seeing something like that, and then get up in the morning and go about your day. I would be permanently shaken! As Howard said you would go around the rest of your life clutching a rosary.
Another thing that puzzles me is, all these people who have dealt with these houses that are not quite right, it never occurs to them to get a priest in there. That is what I would do ASAP. Why would I want to take on this ghost myself? I would let the priest be the middleman, I will tell you that right now.
Well, that is me.
Considering that no one else seems to think like that, I wonder if that black mist still lives in the Millonzi House.
With Buffalo it is one extreme or the other. We are either among the very best or the very worst. And usually we are at the No. 2 slot, not No. 1. A few years ago we were the second fattest city. New Orleans was the fattest! And now we are the second-best place in the country to move to. Pittsburgh is the first.
It is fascinating to look over this Best Places thing.
You have to admire the guy, Burt Sperling, who got it rolling. He set up this Web site and appointed himself arbiter and maybe now it is making a living for him. Why didn't I think of that? I would have more time to work on my book, that is for sure.
I love how the picture included with the story -- that is it up above -- spotlights our Skyway. There is this big griping in Buffalo that the Skyway should go. I always loved it. And Best Places apparently agrees with me.
Who knew Buffalo was nicknamed "City of Trees"? I never heard that and I have lived here all my life. At first I thought it came from a band called the Trees. That was a band Howard used to play in.
But we are apparently the "City of Trees" because of all our parks. The article kindly does not mention that our parks are dumps compared with other cities' parks. Look at Delaware Park, with boom cars all over the place and an expressway full of trucks running through the middle of it.
In general I think Mr. Best Places has us right. Buffalo is a good place to live. I like it here. I like it now with apples in season, plus I am ready to head to the Clinton-Bailey Market and broker my first half bushel of squash.
But one thing about this Best Places thing makes me uneasy. That is because two things great about Buffalo are our relatively inexpensive houses, and our nonexistent traffic.
I do not want those things to change!
Perhaps we should not be getting the word out about how great we are.
Joking around about my Zumba class the other day I forgot to mention the funniest thing.
That was when we shook and shimmied our way through one number or other and the teacher afterwards rejoiced in how good we were. She reflects happily sometimes on how when we were new to the class most of us were afraid or unable to get into the spirit of things and now we are all like, "Hell, yeah!"
In this one dance, she said, we really had it going on.
"We could do this for the mayor!" she exulted.
Ha, ha! I cannot stop laughing about that!
Because there I am the next morning deep into my research on Leonard Pennario and it intrudes on my mind, the thought of all of us in our Zumba class shaking and shimmying for our mayor...
... Byron Brown.
Byron Brown always looks and acts so proper in his suit and everything, I cannot imagine the look on his face.
Zounds, I have gone two days without checking in! I am going to cheat and date this post yesterday.
We had a blackout! Our power was out. At 11 p.m. Tuesday, after I got back from my mom's, the lights flickered and went out. Then they went on. Then out again. As Howard said there must have been some branch that fell on some wire somewhere and bounced. Well, later we learned some pole somewhere had been struck by lightning.
Howard and I did what we usually do in power failures, which are becoming more common now that everyone's house is loaded with the kind of electrical infrastructure that used to be found only at NASA. We played the piano and sipped bourbon. In the Surprise Storm that was what we did for three days. This ancient bottle of whiskey appeared from somewhere and we played the piano for each other by candlelight and worked our way through this bottle of whiskey.
That was kind of fun, you know, living as if it were Beethoven's day? I remember when I came home from work on the fourth day or something and saw the lights on. I was bummed! Well, that was before I met Leonard Pennario. I did not have this goal of finishing this book so what the heck, I could spend three nights playing the piano and drinking whiskey.
But now at least I can spend one night doing that so that was what we did Tuesday with the power off.
This morning -- it is Wednesday now, remember, because I am cheating on the dates -- the power was still off! It is amazing the things that do not work in a power failure that you take for granted. No blow-drying your hair. No Internet, torture because I am all wrapped up in tracking a number of political races.
That one sneaked up on me. I went and filled the thing up and everything. Then ... nothing.
No radio. We actually sat and talked as we ate our oatmeal and drank our coffee. I could have oatmeal and coffee.
It is funny, I have all this stuff weighing on my mind but then I go to Zumba class and it goes away. Today I was thinking, it is like "A Chorus Line." "Life was beautiful, at the ballet."
Well, it is not exactly the ballet. Let us not be naive.
But it takes my mind off everything! Just trying to follow the steps. I have noticed that when I go at night, as I did tonight, I am not as apt to take instruction as I am earlier in the day. Sometimes I just forget about listening and I just dance.
I always emerge from the gym feeling better!
A fringe benefit is, I drink less wine. Whole evenings pass when I am not drinking wine because I am dancing in the gym. They have not fixed it yet so you can do both at the same time. I have my fingers crossed hoping that day will come but it has not come yet.
I also go to sleep faster at night so I can get up earlier in the morning and work.
When my book on Leonard Pennario comes out perhaps I should list in my acknowledgments Alberto Perez. He is the founder of Zumba! That is Alberto Perez pictured up above. I was disappointed when I saw what he looked like, to tell you the truth. I was somehow thinking he would be old. I was imagining this cool old Latin guy. Then I see this disco-y guy in pink sneakers. Oh well.
I think sometimes how Leonard would sneer at our Zumba music. There was one song downtown the other day I could not get over. Downtown is the tough Zumba, the hip-hop Zumba. This one song, and I use the term loosely, kept using the sound effects of sirens and breaking glass.
I am out shimmying to this breaking glass thinking, uh, this is not really something I should be doing.
That is what the back page of my new Cooking Light tells me, accusingly.
This pathetic magazine, I wish my subscription would just lapse, you know? Instead it just keeps showing up and irritating me.
They used to have yummy recipes on the back page. I have saved a few of them, like Honey-Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges. And Texas Sheet Cake.
Now all they do is carp at us!
Remember when I kvetched that they gave us that list of 10 things we did wrong and how to fix it? It was so demoralizing. YOUR CAKE COLLAPSES. YOUR PANCAKES BURN. etc.
Naturally they took this bad idea and ran with it and that is what we get now. On the back page of every issue we get another accusing comment of what we are doing wrong.
And the magazine has continued on its downward spiral of trying to sell me all this stuff and giving advice on store-bought foods and telling you how to have breakfast, lunch and dinner in Seattle. You know what, I remember my sister Katie saying to me years ago, "I'm tired of hearing about what it's like to live and work in Seattle." That was 20 years ago!
It still has not let up!
I do not want to go to Seattle ...
... OK? I want to sit here and cook in my North Buffalo kitchen.
Then with something simmering on the stove I want to go back upstairs and work some more on my Leonard Pennario book which, I put in six hours on it today.
What is with these magazines?
Why can't they get it?
Editor's note: I enjoyed the Facebook comments so much I am reprinting them here!
It is Friday and all I can say is TGIF! That is a quaint '80s expression I love. All week I have been working like a pack animal. Hence my carping about Wegmans and Anita Hill.
Today I am thinking of calling my mother and seeing if she wants to go to the Edge of Town. That is a thing we do on Fridays. Sometimes we go for dinner but last week we went for lunch and that was fine too!
My mother likes the Edge of Town because it serves mom food like fish fries and liver. She is also thinking the owners are Catholic because whenever we have gone on a Friday they have had a vegetarian or fish soup.
My mom still does the no-meat-on-Fridays rule all year round, not just in Lent. I do it now too. I mean, if I go to someone's house for dinner and the main course is chicken or whatever, I eat it, no big deal, because religion is not about being rude about little stuff like that. But in general I try to observe it. It is kind of a pain but it does not hurt anyone plus it reminds me of who I am and that there is a world after this one.
Back to the Edge of Town. I go one sometimes about these Forgotten Buffalo tours which take you around to all the old taverns.The Edge of Town is one. I share Forgotten Buffalo's concern that they might be vanishing, along with other old things that have fallen by the wayside like no meat on Friday. Try skipping the meat on Friday and you realize how few places cater to you anymore. In some older places, historic taverns I love like the Edge of Town or the R&L Lounge or the Eagle House, most of the Friday specials will be fish. But in many other places they are not. Sometimes you can hardly find anything you can eat.
The Catholic Church should never have relaxed that rule! Because now it gets to be Lent and we are all stuck with it being much more difficult than it used to be.
Back to mom food such as what is found at the Edge of Town.
The other day my mom had me pick her up some liver sausage. I believe old German food like that will be disappearing. Here is something else that is disappearing: Fastnachts. That is short for Fastnacht Kuechles. They are these German sort of friedcake doughnuts that I guess used to be eaten on Fridays when you were fasting, or going without meat. You can still find them sometimes during Lent but I think in a few years you will not be able to anymore. We are all on diets and everything is all about Mediterranean food.
Luckily some old German food will be sticking around because German food pretty much equals Jewish food. Gefilte fish, yummy things like that, I think we will have that for a while. Once I took my mother to Katz's, the Jewish delicatessen in New York, and she was in heaven! Everything appealed to her. We ended up ordering just about everything and there was way more than we could eat.
I wish we had a good Jewish delicatessen like that in Buffalo because I would take my mom there.
But we would always find time for the Edge of Town!
That is Miss Hill up above. I remember that business almost 20 years ago. Those hearings, with Hill and her entire family. Her entire DAMN family! I know, this is a family Web log preoccupied with the Latin Mass and with Leonard Pennario. But since the publicity surrounding the Rent is 2 DAMN High Party it is hip to put "DAMN" in everything you say.
Anita Hill and her whole DAMN family were all sitting there on TV and while she gave her testimony, my friend Lizzie and I were watching and we could not believe what we saw. I always remember, I was packing for Vienna. I was throwing things into a suitcase as we were laughing. I was leaving for Vienna the next day with my mom. We had just decided the day before to go and that was back in the good old days when I did not have a job.
When I did not have a DAMN job, I should say!
So yes, Lizzie and I were shrieking with laughter. But it was all unfair and DAMN damning to Clarence Thomas and we realized that even at the time. My dad, who was fascinated with the proceedings, offered the best explanation I have ever heard for all of it. He said the truth lay somewhere in between what Clarence Thomas was saying and what Anita Hill was saying. There are these gray areas and this was one. He said they probably had some kind of flirtation going on at one time, or maybe more than that. These are human things that often happen in the workplace and this was one of them.
What is with me? Here I am writing about my dad again and his opinions. Just the other day I was remembering how he bossed me to interview Andre Watts, which I did. Although would you believe it, just yesterday, Mr. Watts postponed his concert. After all this DAMN work!
Anyway. Anita Hill. She had no DAMN business trashing his reputation. I think Clarence Thomas' wife is right to bug Anita Hill for an apology, if that is in fact what happened. Here he is this justice on the highest court and he has always been kind of a laughingstock because of this. It has more or less driven him into hiding. You never see his picture anywhere.
The other day I was having some friends over and making cassoulet. It required some hard-to-find things and so I found myself going to Wegmans.
I know Wegmans is a great store and is run by great people who donate to good causes and treat their employees well. But still. But still.
That store is a challenge!
I have gotten too used to the Broadway Market and the Clinton-Bailey Market and when I go to Wegmans I am like this visitor from another century. The place seems strange to me. Everyone is so aggressive there! The carts clatter over the tiles and noise blares from the sound system and everyone rushes at you. One time when I was reduced to going to Wegmans for something I hesitated just for a moment in front of the bread and roll display. I just had never seen it before and I was looking for hoagy rolls for my cooking club.
As I stood there -- and we are talking maybe five seconds -- this woman in black pants elbowed me out of the way and grabbed something. It was like being in France and not knowing your way around.
The other day, trying to make sense of the meat department, I thought: I wish I could charter Wegmans for myself for an hour the way the Queen of England used to charter Harrods. She would get Harrods to herself just to go shopping for Christmas presents. Perhaps she still does! I think I would enjoy Wegmans without all the people in it. Just me and all that pasta and cheese. And I could put Leonard Pennario on the sound system!
It is fun to think what store you would charter like the Queen of England chartering Harrods.
If I could choose just one Wegmans would not be my top choice. My top choice would be different.
It would be Dollar Tree! Because I would like to shop there for an hour without people getting in my way.
If I did not have Hungarian blood before, I sure do now!
My Hungarian friend Marta has told me a couple of things about Hungarian food, so I could approach this recipe from a position of strength. No. 1, you are not to use paprika and black pepper in the same recipe. They do not belong together! Use paprika only. Marta says that on Hungarian tables they do not have pepper shakers. They have paprika!
The other rule is you always serve goulash not with noodles but with potatoes. That is what I did the other day. I had beginner's luck. The recipe asked for noodles but I put in potatoes instead.
I hate to think what might have happened had Marta approached the table and there would have been noodles there and not potatoes.
It would not have been pretty!
In the spirit of Hungary here is Pennario playing the daylights out of this wild Bartok Sonata. And here is Part 2. You have to love what a commenter wrote: "Super-human!"
I should have contented myself with simply listening to that instead of cooking Chicken Paprikas too. Because I could not stop eating! Hungary, Hungary Hippo! It is amazing how shorts that were loose in the morning can be tight at night.
Here is one thing funny about the recipe. Recipes crack me up, you know. So many of them are funny. This Chicken Paprikas recipe called for two tablespoons of sour cream. That was amazing, that was all the sour cream it took. It ended up tasting nice and rich.
And the recipe said, when it mentioned the sour cream, "May use low-fat."
Uh, excuse me, I am not using low-fat sour cream when all it calls for is two tablespoons. What would I save, six calories?
Bela Bartok ...
... would be looking down with dismay.
What about Bela Lugosi?
He would be horrified! That is the way Bela Lugosi would look were you to skimp on those two tablespoons of full-fat sour cream.
What about Bela Fleck?
Well may you ask. He would be outraged.
And so would the Flecktones!
You must tread carefully, in the Hungarian kitchen.
After chatting with Andre Watts the other day I had my piano teacher, Stephen Manes, and his Hungarian wife, Marta, over to dinner. Along with our friend Michelle, who is also Hungarian.
And I got to thinking: The whole day was about Hungarians! Andre Watts is Hungarian and so are Marta and Michelle.
Plus I was making goulash for dinner. Which, Hungarian goulash is not the goulash you get in company cafeterias, with macaroni and ground beef. It is a thick beef stew with paprika and onions and peppers and sour cream and, in the case of the recipe I was slavishly following, potatoes. There is also a case to be made for serving it with egg noodles but this recipe called for potatoes.
I used genuine Hungarian paprika which I brought home with me from San Diego. Come to think of it I made a beef stew for Leonard Pennario too for which I used that paprika. It is almost gone now.
We ate dinner with my Hungarian table linens ...
... that I picked up at that one estate sale where everyone was sitting around talking Hungarian. And one of the women approached me and asked if I was Hungarian.
I said, regretfully, no. It would have been fun to be able to tell her yes.
And perhaps I should have said I was. Perhaps I am! That is what Marta told me after our dinner.
She said, "You must have Hungarian blood in you."
That is quite a compliment to my goulash and to me. That is a picture of a Hungarian woman at the top of this post! It is from the art gallery in Budapest.
I began thinking, yes, I must have Hungarian blood in me. Yes, definitely.
I danced better in Zumba class thinking that.
Marta said, "Check with your mother on this. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was wide and lasted a long time." I will do that! I will check and see if my mother admits that yes, I have Hungarian blood in me.
Ha, ha! I love how Mister Rogers is leaning right over his shoulder. Also what Mister Rogers says at the end. "I'm so proud to be your friend!" Too funny.
Anyway I was just looking at a lot of excitement for one day. I was up. I was down. Up. Down. There was excitement around 4 a.m. when a group of emergency vehicles suddenly and noisily assembled on the corner. Fire trucks, police cars! I still have no idea what that was about but I watched that for a while.
Finally I got to sleep about 5:30 a.m. Three hours later I awoke and at the appointed hour of 10 a.m. I called Andre Watts.
I am lucky it was Andre Watts I was calling and not some jerk. I mean, as long as you have not slept much you should be able to talk to someone nice. I had talked with Mr. Watts once before and had recalled that he was nice but even so, yesterday he surpassed my expectations. He is one of those one-in-a-million, out of the ballpark great people to talk with. He listens to you, he's funny, he's relaxed and right away, we got along.
About a half an hour into our conversation I felt comfortable enough to mention the Leonard Pennario situation. We were talking about Liszt so it fit with the conversation.
There was another thing on my mind too. I wish I could have brought it up but it is too complicated and silly.
When I first started working at the paper I used to write about rock and heavy metal. The paper needed someone to do it and so that was what I did. I used to wear all black, pack ear plugs and go on in. I covered Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Great White, Faith No More, Todd Rundgren, I could go on and on.
My dad, who was still around back then, was disgusted with the turn my career had taken.
One day I showed up to have dinner with him and my mom and he had just been watching Andre Watts on TV. Watts had played Brahms or something and he had been interviewed and now my dad had turned off the TV and was sitting there brooding.
"You shouldn't be writing about these creeps you're writing about!" he burst out. "You should be interviewing Andre Watts! An intelligent man." And he stalked off to fix his Manhattan.
As I was talking to Andre Watts yesterday I could sense my dad smiling down on me.
Zounds, my piano teacher, Steinway artist Stephen Manes, is coming for dinner this week with his beautiful Hungarian wife, Marta. That is a picture of my dinner party-to-come up above. It is an artist's rendering.
There is only one problem. I have not cleaned up the dining room!
This morning I told myself: Just go and look at it. That is step one!
It is like the Leonard Pennario book. On the rare day when I cannot find five minutes for it I at least look at it.
But the dining room, I do not want even to look at the dining room. There is so much clutter in there! Before I went in I poured myself a new cup of coffee and I allowed myself to eat two Hershey's Kisses while I confronted the sight.
I do not know how the dining room can get so cluttered. Other people have dining rooms that are not cluttered. Other people do not dump their papers and other junk all over the dining room table.
On my table are all these papers and newspapers and half-burned Candle-Lite candles and dishes I have bought at estate sales.
Over the weekend I did all kinds of work but also all kinds of colorful shopping. I went to Radio Shack for a digital 'phone recorder because I have one more brief round of interviews left to do for the Leonard Pennario project, which otherwise is coming along swimmingly. I have been hobbled in recent weeks because my old recorder kicked and I am just not good with digital recorders. Howard will have to help me with this one.
So that was one place I went, Radio Shack. Also I went to Albrecht Discount shopping for my mom and I also bought luxuries for myself: German dark chocolate and Ginger Gold apples. That is the current apple of my eye! Last week it was Wealthy and this week it is Ginger Gold.
As long as I was on Sheridan Drive I went to the most exotic store in the world.
It is 99 Cent City!
Unlike most dollar stores 99 Cent City is not crowded. When I walked in I was the only one there. A few people trickled in after that but for a timeless time I had the place to myself.
It is run by Asians and is packed with stuff the way Asian stores are. Exotic things like bowls with covers, and fancy teacups, and a rainbow of colors of tissue paper and gift wrap.
I was in the gift wrap aisle looking at gift bags because it was my friend Michelle's birthday and I was on my way to drop off a gift bag at her house to surprise her for when she got home. I was going to include a few Ginger Gold apples and some of that chocolate from Aldi. I mean Albrecht Discount.
As I said 99 Cent City is run by Asians and this one woman stood and watched me as I weeded through the gift bags. Well, she stood around the corner a little but I kept catching her peeping at me.
Finally I turned and smiled and said, "I take a long time making up my mind."
She smiled and said: "Oh! Oh!"
And I went back to my searching for the perfect gift bag. Finally I found one I liked. I also got a candle to go in the gift bag. And a potholder and an oven mitt. It is fun assembling gift bags! This one was anchored on a cinnamon cookbook that I had already purchased and set aside for Michelle.
When I checked out there were no words exchanged between me and the clerk. It was most mysterious and exotic!
Why do people travel when there is 99 Cent City right here?
Today at a garage sale I bought something I have been waiting 35 years to buy.
It is a pogo stick!
When I was a kid I was dying for a pogo stick because my best friend, Jean Schneggenburger, had one. My parents did what parents should do in that situation, which was tell me to watch the For Sale ads and garage sales and maybe one would come up. I did that. But no pogo stick ever did come up and finally I grew into my teens and forgot about pogo sticks and no longer talked about wanting one. Problem solved.
But today, a pogo stick presented itself. At first I walked away from the sale with a couple of more sensible purchases but when I got to the car I said to my mom, "You know what, I'm going back."
And I bought this pogo stick. For $4.
What about pianist Ivo Pogorelich?
Between you and me and my new pogo stick he was not half the pianist Pennario was.
Anyway, this pogo stick I bought is beautiful. It is a Maverick pogo stick. Howard and I were hopping around on it. That was before we noticed that it is supposed to be for kids. Now we are going to give it to our nephew, George Henry, for Christmas.
He will go bounding around on it and love it! As soon as we hand it to him he will be going at it full blast.
However. My mom and I got to talking and we started laughing about, are kids still allowed to jump around on these things? Without a helmet? The Schneggenburgers, they had eight kids in their family and two pogo sticks, so I would go over and visit her and we would take those two pogo sticks and go jumping up and down Hamilton Drive.
That is probably now verboten.
And sure enough, it is! I was seeing just now: "Always wear a helmet on a pogo stick."
Blah, blah, blah!
It is a chicken world out there now. There are no pianists like Leonard Pennario plus you have to wear a helmet on a pogo stick.
The office Cooking Club I belong to is meeting again and I have to make Lacquered Carrots.
I always get the unsexy side dish!
Another time I had to make and okra thing nobody in the world wanted to eat. It was a Bon Appetit okra recipe and it was this fusion thing with all these things unnatural to okra, like ginger, and I forget what else.
The time before that I had to make cauliflower. Which, I love cauliflower, but most other people do not.
So often at home just on an ordinary weeknight I will cook something up for Howard and me and I look at it on the plate and I think, that looks so pretty. And no one but us is here to see it! And Howard half the time hardly looks at it. I am sitting there trying to draw his attention to this and that.
I have made whole fish, head and all, and it looks wonderful!
Once I tossed together a minestrone with white beans and cabbage, and it looked like something out of Ristorante Lombardo. Honest!
Then when I invite people over for dinner, so often it does not look as good. Or I have to bring something to the cooking club, which should be this opportunity to show off, and so often I end up appraising it critically, thinking, this is not my best effort. I do not know what it is. When there is no one else around, that is when I have that magic touch.
It is like playing the piano. "It sounded better in my living room."
It is like when was with Pennario in California. When he came over for dinner I just did not do as well. Well, I thought so anyway.
I go to bed late and I get up early, and a lot of the time because of my schedule, I do not eat dinner until 10 p.m. That is why I have nutty dreams.
Last night through unforeseen circumstances I ate very late and I dreamed I was in England, being chased by Prince Andrew!
I know, it makes no sense. Married, Latin Mass-attending, Leonard Pennario-listening music critic from Buffalo, must have! Even in the dream, I puzzled over that. I have been good about doing my Zumba but still.
In the dream Howard and I were over in England, and we fell in with the prince somehow and before I knew it the prince's people were cornering me and demanding that I go somewhere with him. And they said I might have to stay overnight with him.
Howard was just kind of leaving me nonchalantly and I ran after him. "Howard," I remember saying, "make sure you have your phone with you, OK?" The phone is a weird recurring theme in my dreams. I am always trying to call people and I can't dial the number, or the call does not go through, or the person does not answer. So naturally in the dream Howard just walks away.
So there I am stuck with Prince Andrew. And even worse, I am wearing these tattered jeans! We passed a street stand with these hippie clothes, which I have always loved. I stopped, thinking, I could at least find a skirt to pull on, or something. But Prince Andrew grew impatient and his handler whispered to me I had better hurry up. Then the clothes began disappearing before my eyes! Not only was I irritating Prince Andrew but I was going to leave the stand empty-handed!
Here is one other funny thing: I was thinking, maybe I could deal somehow with this overnight business. Perhaps I could stay over and Prince Andrew and I could be, uh, just friends.
Because I thought it would be cool to stay overnight in Buckingham Palace. Or Balmoral, which also surfaced in the dream as a possibility.
It is funny, waking up from a dream like that. The dream was stressful and messy and in a way you are happy to leave the situation.
So I get up early, well before dawn, so I can work on this thing about Leonard Pennario. This morning, what darkness! I was not operating on full power. Here is what told me that.
1. Reaching groggily into the dishwasher for a coffee mug I found myself reaching instead for a wineglass. As if it were 6 p.m., not 6 a.m. Ha, ha! I wish!
2. I put the water but not the coffee in the coffee maker so what did I have? A carafe of hot water.
3. This one is the best...
I poured coffee over my hairbrush!
I am in the upstairs bathroom and this is after my first cup of coffee. Well, half a cup of coffee. I drank half of it and then got wrapped up in my work and the other half got cold. I was heading downstairs to get another cup but first I stopped in the bathroom and what I did was, I poured the cold coffee into the sink. As I was doing that something clattered into the sink. It was dark and I could not see what it was but yes indeed, it was my hairbrush.
Ha, ha! It is like the Beach Boys' "The Sloop John B." "Into my soup went his comb." That was a line I always got a kick out of. Until now! Now that line hits a little close to home.
I rinsed off the brush but it still smells like coffee so later when I washed my hair I used Howard's hairbrush.
On Mondays I like to get something in the Crock Pot to treat myself well and ease myself into the week. Today I have something extraordinary.
It is the 16 Bean Soup Mix!
All beans have gone way up in price and I will not even get into that. Even a pound of lentils runs $1.19 or $1.29 a pound. Other foods have come back down in price but oh, those dried beans, they want to stick you on those. Beans tripled in price and they are staying there.
The good news is, for the $1.79 or whatever you are shanghaied into paying for the 16 Bean Soup Mix, you are getting a real work of art.
Are you still allowed to say you are shanghaied or is that politically incorrect?
Perhaps you are insulting the people of Shanghai.
Back to the beans. Howard said, "I couldn't even name 16 beans."
I am going to try! Ahem. Black beans, white beans, pink beans, kidney beans, lentils, split peas, cranberry beans, pinto beans. What am I up to? Seven. There are still nine beans to go!
Adzuki beans. I have not had them but they are in all my snobby cookbooks. Soybeans. Mung beans. Has anyone ever had mung beans? I have only had mung bean sprouts. Remember my kitchen sprout garden? The instructions suggest mung beans, as if, doesn't everyone have them lying around? I have never actually seen them, not even in Oriental, I mean Asian, markets.
Lima beans. A bean I love! Fava beans. Fava beans are huge so I do not know if they are in the 16 Bean Soup Mix. But we will count them anyway.
Now we are at 12. I am trying to imagine the Goya aisle at Budwey's. I am trying to think what I am missing. Cannellini beans. They are white kidney beans. That is 13. Roman beans! I bought them once.
Three beans to go!
Instead of saying simply split peas we can include yellow and green splits. That brings us up to 14. We are still missing two! Can you count green and black lentils? If you can then there you are.
You have to love how the ordinary brown lentil is always sneered at. The German lentil, it is sometimes called. Cookbooks sniff, oh, it is better if you have the green lentils. To tell you the truth I have had the green lentils and I do not see the big deal. The black lentils, now, those are delicious.
I could talk about beans all day! It is getting like talking about Leonard Pennario.
I do not know if I should count those separate lentils. In which case I still have those two beans to go.
That second Kyrie captured the mood of the season. It makes me think of Russia and "Dr. Zhivago." It is from the 12th century. At least the 12th century! It could be older.
If I could get on a time machine you know me, I would want to go back to the 1950s and hear Leonard Pennario premier Ravel's solo-piano "La Valse." But if the time machine overshot my destination and took me back to the 12th century, I know where I would go. I would go to Mass! Because I would know the Kyrie.
Imagine that, you are shooting for 1952 and you get a surprise.
"Uh, this isn't 1952."
"Oh, no! Didn't you say 1152?"
And you could not go back!
The machine would not be perfect and there you would be, stuck in the 12th century. With all kinds of medieval illnesses and no decent plumbing. However luckily I would be able to go to Mass and understand it like a native. And because of my time in the medieval club I would be able to dance the pavan and the galliard and the Pease Bransle and do halfway decent embroidery and do three kinds of calligraphy: Gothic, Celtic Roundhand and Roman Uncial. Those are life skills I carry with me!
Plus I would not have to go to the office. Think of that.