Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Wholey Lent

I had the best time today in Tops!

They have this frozen fish half price this week. It has a great brand name, Wholey. I had never heard of it before! Now Googling around I find there is a Wholey Fish store in Pittsburgh. It seems to be rather famous. Well, in any case: on Wednesday I was going to my mom's and had to pick her up something for dinner. And there it was: Wholey! But not wholly priced. Halfly priced.

A pound of salmon was $4.99 and tilapia was $3.99 and shrimp was in between at $4.49. Wow, not only am I a walking Gusto these days, I am a walking Tops ad! And the thing is, the fish comes in plastic pouches, with sauce inside. You boil the pouches in water and then voila.

Normally I am not one for prepared food but comes a time.

So. I got Salmon with Bernaise Sauce and asparagus which, listen to me, is on sale at Tops for $1.99 a pound. And russet potatoes, five pound bags, buy one get one free. This is hilarious, here I was today trying to remember which concerto it was that Pennario played at London's Royal Festival Hall with the conductor Anatole Fistoulari, and I was drawing a blank.

I thought: I cannot think of this concerto, I am losing it.

However, just ask me the price of russet potatoes at Tops!

Well, Pennario liked his good eats so I am not that ashamed. Anyway, on I go over there with this salmon. It was tremendous! My mom loved it and I did too. We ate up every bit! These are Buffalonian-sized portions. No pious four-ounce fillets. Eight ounces, baby. This is terrible but I have to say, I pretty much blew Ash Wednesday. I remember sitting at work, at my desk, at 10 a.m. and realizing I had already eaten my entire allotment of food for the day. I was like some kind of big dog!

There was no stopping me.

Anyway, so today before going to my mom's I went back to Tops. I wanted to get more of this fish. I must have looked eager because an attendant came over and she was all smiling and was directing me to where they had more choices. This is the Tops on Harlem where the Jubilee used to be. They must be nice there because all the workers seem happy.

So I told the attendant all about how my mom had loved this salmon. Meanwhile this being Buffalo other customers begin interestedly heading over, and they join in the conversation, and soon we are all loading up on this fish.

"My boyfriend will love this," this other woman said, selecting a coconut shrimp package.

I get a kick out of Buffalo, how people talk to strangers. Go up to Toronto and it is not the same. Go to New York and it is not the same. Once when Howard and I were in New York we inadvertently began talking to strangers in an elevator and they looked at us as if we were dangerous.

After selecting my fish I went through the do-it-yourself checkout line in Tops. I am getting better and better at that. But that is a whole other story.

For now, I am thinking I might buy more of that fish. It is on sale through Saturday!

And when I go back I am armed with a nice prepared joke to go with the prepared fish. I am going to have to ask with a straight face if they have mackerel.

Because then it would be Wholey Mackerel!

I bet that joke is big in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The songwriters speak

Howard and I celebrated Mardi Gras in kind of low key style. But elegant!

I made a fish gumbo and I had a glass of wine and Howard had peppy cider which he loves. And we listened to this cool record set I bought at one of the estate sales I went to with my mom last summer. It is a three-record set from Book of the Month club where you get to hear three lyricists singing their own songs. The first record is Johnny Mercer and then there is Alan Jay Lerner and finally Sammy Cahn.

Howard could not get over this record set! It is amazing the stuff I walk into the house with as a matter of course that he never sees. And, I mean, they are just sitting there. I do not hide them or anything.

The records were recorded in 1971 at the New York 92nd Street Y. I cannot wait to hear Sammy Cahn but for now all we had time for were the first two. I liked how Alan Jay Lerner, in between his numbers, talked shop. I will go over this record again and share more of his secrets. But for now, there was one song which, he realized it was a strong melody but it needed words all of one syllable. Another song -- this was "I Talk To The Trees"...

... from "Paint Your Wagon," he sweated over writing that song for days before realizing that what it needed was not to rhyme.

He also talked about how some songs are "realization" songs. The hero or heroine comes to a realization. In "Gigi" it is when the hero, whoever he is (I forget), realizes that Gigi has grown up before his very eyes. In "Camelot," King Arthur has his epiphany when he realizes that Camelot will live on in legend. After revealing that, Alan Jay Lerner sang this song.

These are useful things to know in life.

The Johnny Mercer record featured Margaret Whiting who was a friend of Leonard Pennario's. But I liked how Lerner talked shop.

So that was my fun for today! Now tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Lent descends.

Zut alors and son of a gumbo-gobbling sea cook!

And alas.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The call of the wild

It is that time of year when Howard and I begin arguing over whether or not it is spring. I always want to jump the gun and say it is. And Howard has this complicated theory whereby February is parallel to December, something like that, and so we cannot expect any improvement any time soon.

But this morning the sky is bright blue! And yesterday I heard the call of the chickadee.

I remembered how last year, I had learned what the chickadee was, because I had described the two-note call. And my friend Liz Savino had checked in and told me that was what it was.

Working on the life of Leonard Pennario I have become adept at checking dates and years and occurrences. So I made it a priority to check back and see the exact date I heard the chickadee last year. And guess what? It was Feb. 15, four days earlier than this year!

So much for my early spring.

Because I do not remember last spring being especially early.

But still. The air feels different. The light feels different. Mornings are brighter. It is funny how it can be 25 degrees and you do not feel you need a hat or gloves.

There I go again!

Ever the optimist!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

'This cheap fish has sweet taste and flaky'

Howard and I ate a strange fish yesterday, I mean a fish we had never eaten before.

It is Swai!

That is a picture of a Swai up above. Luckily I did not see it before I ate my Swai because I could get affectionate toward a fish that looks like that. I like big animals and there is something sweet and ugly about this one.

But the Swai I got, it was cut into fillets and frozen in plastic and it came in from Vietnam. It is like my Valentine's Day flowers being shipped from San Diego. This is America, baby!

When I got home I wondered... What the heck is Swai? I was not the first person to ask that question.

Here is a hilariously translated site about Swai.

"The swai fish taste may blow you away because this cheap fish has sweet taste and flaky."

Hahahahaa! And here is a video about Swai. It says: "They like to stay in temple and very big fish."

In plain English: Swai is like catfish and it is very low calorie ... 90 calories per 3.5 ounces. I'm in! Plus, the explanation I just linked to is dated 2009 and already it is complaining about how expensive fresh fish is. That is the truth! Now it is even more expensive.

Swai I buy Swai.

Sorry, that is Howard's joke! Like Leonard Pennario he likes puns.

Anyway, for $3.99 a pound the Swai was delish. We ate it in corn tortillas with guacamole and lime sour cream. And cabbage. Howard has had to become resigned to the fact that with a German wife you will have cabbage more often than not. That is why they call us Krauts.

One way to describe the Swai ...


Friday, February 17, 2012

Back from the Dead

Last night my brother George and I went to hear the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra playing music of the Grateful Dead. They had this fantastic band with them, Forever Young. Forever Young is from Hamburg, right in our own back yard! That is the band up above. It is their Facebook picture. The bushy-haired guy is a tremendous keyboard player and singer. I cannot wait to get to work so I can write a little more about him.

Meanwhile I wrote about the concert for the paper but I got carried away and wrote too long and the already overworked city editor had to cut my review with an ax. So I am afraid to read it!

This morning as I made coffee I found myself singing "Sugar Magnolia."

I said to Howard: "In any of the bands you played in, Howard, did you ever play Grateful Dead songs?"

Howard did not look up from the Wall Street Journal.

"Probably," he said.

Then he said: "The fact that I don't remember means that I probably did."


I have a soft spot for the Grateful Dead ever since I went with George to California to catch the band's big New Year's Eve show in Oakland, in addition to two other shows. In that one week, and I am not exaggerating, I lost 12 pounds. I came home and couldn't believe it.

My furtive liking for the Grateful Dead was one of the few secrets I kept from Leonard Pennario. He would absolutely not have been able to deal with it.

Can't help it...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Flower power

Paul McCartney is trying to compete with Howard with an album of the Great American Songbook. Howard is listening right now to "My One and Only Love."

Paul still sounds like Paul and actually I think he does a decent job with this number. Isn't that a nice picture of him up above? My friend Carl, who lives in Portland or Seattle or wherever he lives, walked the dog on Valentine's Day and wrote on Facebook how wonderful it was that all the restaurants were packed and all the men were carrying flowers. And look, there is Paul carrying flowers.

McCartney made a big deal that he recorded the album at historic Capitol Studios where he was awed by the spirits of the great musicians who have recorded there over the years, such as Nat Cole and Leonard Pennario. Well, he did not mention Pennario specifically but you have to assume he was thinking of him! Because McCartney is a thinking musician.

Last night at Valentine's Day dinner Howard and I listened to Cy Coleman.

Howard got a brand-new Cy Coleman album! He found it on eBay and last night we cracked it open along with a couple of lobsters. Valentine's Day is not Valentine's Day without vinyl! See, if Paul McCartney were really serious about his standards project he would release his album on vinyl. Perhaps he did and I just do not know about that.

The Cy Coleman was a great Valentine's Day touch and also Howard sent me roses at work. Not only that but the roses were shipped all the way from San Diego. This is America, baby!

It is hard to put Valentine's Day and all these wonderful love songs out of your mind and go back to work.

One more for the road.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The belle of St. Mary's

It is fun to think about the dumb things that can brighten your life. One thing I did over the weekend was go to a dinner for St. Mary's High School in Lancaster where I bid in a silent auction and won two gift baskets.

They were so worth my donation!

One had a bottle of wine and three gift cards, one of which is to Wegmans. Wegmans here I come! I can always spend money at supermarkets.

The other was great. It had an exercise mat and two sets of hand weights, three pounds and five pounds. And a big exercise ball which, already I have had Howard blow it up. And it has a snooty water bottle.

It was really funny at the party because there I was  walking around toting this thing. And my arms began to burn! Because I am carrying all these weights.

But the next morning I was so glad to have this basket! I kept going through it and admiring all the things in it, so shiny and new. It felt like Christmas, this basket full of stuff sitting on my coffee table. The basket itself is nice too.

I rolled around with the exercise ball while I listened to Pennario playing the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto. Howard's friend Dave van Stone was over and he said the great thing about an exercise ball is it makes you feel silly while you are working out with it so you do not feel the burn so much. Dave is very fit so I take his advice.

Anyway a nice evening of fulfilling shopping.

And all for a good cause!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The great depression

For years I have wished I had kept a binder for ads that crack me up. I love ads and packaging, things like that. I find myself studying them.

Luckily now we have the Internet and so I can walk down memory lane with this Zoloft ad. Click on it and you can see it bigger.

Ha, ha! That was back when I had not met Leonard Pennario and I could concentrate on such things. I loved the oversimplified stories, and then the depressed bubble head going on the computer and researching Zoloft. There was one where you saw the moon shining in the window but alas, that one eludes me on the Internet.

This is funny, once in an Elmwood Avenue shop I managed to get talking with the proprietor about Zoloft ads. We laughed and laughed about them.

There would always be one woebegone depressed bubble head and the others would be smiling.

Wow, I guess there were TV ads too! We must watch one. We must!

Hahaha! At the end they all bounce.

What got me onto this today was seeing an ad for Abilify. I had never heard of this drug but the ad, featuring a bathrobe, kills me. The bathrobe is your depression and it comes chasing you!

Too funny.

With ads like this, who needs the actual drugs?

Monday, February 6, 2012

The purple curtain

How is this for a Monday pick-me-upper: Yesterday when I went to church I found out to my horror that it was Septuagesima Sunday. That is the start of pre-Lent.

We are in the Lenten season!

And I only just recently took down my Christmas tree!

Isn't that graphic up above a riot? I Google-Imaged Lent and that is what I got. It is the truth! That is what makes it so funny.

Septuagesima really sneaked up on me this year. Normally I try to study up at some point during the week on the upcoming Sunday but I did not get a chance to this week, being so busy with, you guessed it, Leonard Pennario and book demands. And as I saw those purple vestments, my heart sank.

I should have suspected something. Because Saturday night at a jam session at my friend Gary's house I ran into the great jazz singer Peggy Farrell and she told me Lent was coming.

I said, "Peggy, we are in the cruelest religion." And we laughed about that as we had another glass of wine. But Peggy sings in the choir at St. Louis and she knows what is what.

And Christ spoke to Mary and Martha, saying behold, my Church shall be like an aggravating man in your life, you cannot live with him and you cannot live without him, good times shall be followed immediately by bad times, and vast quantities of wine will be necessary to deal with it all ...

OK, I've got enough Lenten problems.

Better not add blasphemy to the list!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A super Sunday

Today I celebrated Super Bowl Sunday by going to Albrecht Discount. There was no one there and I got to walk right up to the cash register.

Would that every Sunday were the Super Bowl! It is super to be able to go shopping on this day!

Driving back from my mom's house it was like Christmas Eve. Nobody on the road.

I got to my street, normally very busy. No one at the signal.

Silence and inaction.


My big regret was I was sleepy because I was out too late last night and up too early this morning, and I did not have the mental and emotional wherewithal to go somewhere like Walmart where I would have appreciated the emptiness and ease of movement. It seemed to be wasting this unusually configured day to be sitting at home cataloging Leonard Pennario's concerts in the 1940s.

It is too bad the Super Bowl comes only once a year.

I am already looking forward to next one!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Windsor knot

There is this movie coming out called "W.E." about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I have been looking forward to the movie and naturally all the critics cannot wait to tell me that it is a bust.

Fie on critics. Fie!

Oh wait. I am one.

Ahem. Anyway: It is probably just as well that "W.E." stinks. I mean, I would not exactly want to give Madonna money. Normally there might be a soft spot for her in my heart because she is a vestige of the '80s, but she goes around mocking out the Catholic Church, which, I mean, I don't go around getting in her face mocking out whatever it is that she loves. And also, come on, this kicking the Catholic Church, it's been done. Heck, it's been done by Madonna. She has been doing this for years.

I hate that she has that name, you know?

But still. I wish she had done a good job with this movie because I would be up for a decent movie about Edward and Wallis. This one looks pretty on the surface, and I do not laugh at that. Sometimes it is fun to go to see a movie for its surface. Both Edward and Wallis were great fashion plates. She was so thin and stylish and we have him to thank for the Windsor knot. I would go just to see the clothes. I mean, look at that still up above.

It would be nice however if they got the other things right too. At a garage sale earlier this year I picked up the Duchess's memoirs, "The Heart Has Its Reasons." I read it in bed now and then when I need to get my mind off of Leonard Pennario and it is smart and entertaining. She wrote well. Just the parts about hanging around in America, getting divorced, before she ever meets the Prince of Wales, I found those parts fascinating. It is a great glimpse of American life in those years.

She was treated unfairly in "The King's Speech" as this terrible silly shrew.

She continues to be treated unfairly, it seems to me. The British hate her -- reminds you, all this did not happen that long ago.

On one British newspaper site the columnist expresses what seems to be a popular view, that the Edward/Wallis affair hardly qualifies as what the movie calls it, "the romance of the century."


What does qualify in these critics' opinions as the romance of the century?

You would think Edward and Wallis ...

... would at least be in the running!

If this does not make the cut, what does?

I mean, I do not approve of it, her being divorced and all, and unsuitable to the British throne. But he gave up the kingdom for her. Hello! What part of this O Critics do you not understand?

Oh well.

I just cannot give the money to Madonna under the circumstances, just cannot.

In the end I am afraid that "W.E." is not for us.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cul de sac

"Cul de sac" means "bottom of the bag" and that is what I have reached! I am nostalgic now that I have come to the end of my Grocery Bag.

That is the Grocery Bag from Martha Stewart Everyday Food, Nov. 2010.

Did this week fly or what? Here were these five dinners I was going to cook and now I have made them all. It was fun making them, I have to say. I did not have to search for what I was going to make! It was just the way my friend Art said, you come home and say, OK, what is for dinner tonight?

One thing, I was amazed by how good the dinners were. After I made each one I checked online to see what other people thought, I mean to see if I was imagining things. And no, everyone agreed with me. People were rating all the recipes five stars. It is like the first time I heard Leonard Pennario playing, I knew quality when I heard it. I have to learn to trust my instincts.

For the record, the recipes:

Monday: Roast Beef with Cabbage, Squash and Carrots.
Tuesday: Black Beans and Sausage. (Truly yummy. You would not think it would be special but it is.)
Wednesday: Herb-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables.
Thursday: Butternut Squash Baked Risotto. (Also delicious beyond what you would think.)
Friday: One-Pot Pasta With Broccoli Rabe and Bacon.

I left out the bacon for the Friday dinner because it is Friday. Also I have never seen broccoli rabe in a supermarket so I substituted collard greens. The one person who commented on that particular recipe, I just noticed, substituted spinach. Anyway, yum.

Another thing, Howard was not here for dinner on Wednesday but I made the roasted chicken anyway, for myself. I did not want to skip a recipe! Then the next day we had the rest of the roast chicken with the risotto. The risotto goes beautifully with the roast chicken.

Notice I did not post pictures of any of my dishes. Whenever you post a picture of food on your Web log it looks horrible. I notice that on other people's Web logs. Leave the food photography to the pros. I will just say that my efforts looked exactly like the pictures in the magazine. That was funny.

With this week gone a new week beckons. I am going through my back issues of Everyday Food trying to find a new Grocery Bag. It is going to be hard to top this one, is the trouble. I think I started out at the top with this one issue that had hearty fall one-pot dinners.

Oh well. I will let you know.

Forward into a new Grocery Bag!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The picture of protest

With the eviction of Occupy Buffalo last night from Niagara Square, the big question is:

What happened to the picture of Ron Moss?

Ron Moss, as followers of this Web log will know, is Howard's cousin who ran for mayor that time.

We have heard from reliable sources that there was a picture of Ron Moss on site, by the port-o-potties. It has been spotted by multiple people and Moss himself knew about it.

It is funny to think of all this drama going on in Niagara Square in the middle of the night as I sat burning the midnight oil, going over Leonard Pennario's concerts in the year 1958.

I wonder what picture it was.


Or this?

I cannot wait to find out. And I think we will!

Howard and I are laughing that when all the debris is cleared, the picture of Moss will be the only thing left.