Tabouli and Pimento Loaf

During our recent stay in Seattle, we had several ethnic meals, including Indian, Italian, Mexican, Thai and Japanese. I learned several things about food in different cultures, one of which is that the word Curry can mean different things, depending upon culture. It can be a powdery spice, a past, a sauce or a main dish. I have a lot more to learn in that area because I found that the sauce was delicious and I’m ready for more experimentation as soon as possible.
It helps that Susie is slightly adventurous when it comes to trying new dishes but we have run into a snag when it comes to one party in our twosome eating oysters. We had Kumamoto oysters on the half shell at dinner one evening. Susie hates oysters regardless of preparation, presentation or species but I convinced her that Japanese oysters are not as slimy as their North American cousins so she gamely tried one. She managed to keep it down mumbling something about “still slimy, still slimy.” I offered to put a couple on the grill and cook them but to no avail. She also balked at much of the Sushi on our Japanese outing, refusing to try anything with seaweed wrapped around it.
That is why I was surprised at a dish she fixed after we returned to Indianapolis. It became the subject for my weekly newspaper column so rather than getting into it here, I will just cut and paste the column here for any of you folks who don’t have access to any of the newspapers that publish my weekly drivel.

Toubali and Pimento Loaf
Gastronomically speaking, It’s been a bad week around the Grindstaff ranch. It started with my sitting at the kitchen table staring at a bowl full of tabbouleh.
(I didn’t know it was tabbouleh and apparently, neither does Microsoft. As I sit here at my keyboard typing, Mr. Gates’ software insists that I’m spelling the word wrong but I’m not. Both Google and Webster tell me I’m right.)
“What is this?” I said, eyeing the lump of whiteish-gray stuff with multi-colored flecks of…, of…., of….. something.
“Tabouli.” My wife, Susie answered, pronouncing it in what I suppose is an Americanized version of the product’s name.
“I don’t believe I want any of this.” I said, trying to be polite. In truth, there was no way I Hell I was putting any of that in my mouth.
“Why not?”
“I don’t like the looks of it. What’s in the recipe?”
“Bulgur, onion, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, pars….”
“Wait a minute.” I interrupted. “Bulgur? What is Bulgur?”
“It’s a Middle Eastern grain, sort of like rice. You have to boil it.”
“Middle East???” You won’t eat American oysters but you’ll eat that stuff from some far off place?” Susie hates Oysters .
“Tabouli’s not slimy, Oysters are. Besides that, did you happen to remember that we just got home from Seattle? We haven’t been to the grocery yet. That’s all I could find.”
I had no idea why we had Bulgur in the first place but I wasn’t going to argue. “Then let’s go the grocery store. We can eat that stuff later.” I said, not feeling a bit guilty about this lie. That stuff was never crossing my lips.
I headed straight for the deli counter when we arrived. Our tomato plants were bearing almost ripened fruit and I could see myself having a big roast beef sandwich on Rye bread smeared with Mayo and topped with some fresh lettuce and a thick slice of red, juicy homegrown tomato.
I scanned the meat case looking for Roast Beef. There it was, Boar’s Head – 10.99 a pound. ‘10.99? It’s been a while since I bought Roast Beef.’ I thought. ‘Maybe turkey pastrami sounds better.’
Susie walked up as I was looking over the lunch meat selections for prices that I was more comfortable with. There’s one. 4.99 for Pimento Loaf. From somewhere deep in my memory bank, an unpleasant recollection of Pimento loaf struggled to get to the forefront of memories retained from my childhood but I couldn’t get it. I turned to Susie. “Do you like Pimento Loaf?” I said, putting the emphasis on the ‘PIE’.
“No. I won’t touch the stuff.”
“I don’t think I like it either.” Still, it was only 4.99 a pound.
“Look at this pie-mento loaf.” I told her. “Is it supposed to be that color? It looks a little bit too gray for me.”
“Who cares? We’re not going to buy it. Why in the world would you even think about it? You don’t like it and I already told you I won’t eat it, regardless of its color.” She paused to take a deep breath. “And another thing, it’s not PIE-mento loaf.”
“It’s not? What is it?”
“It’s PA-mento loaf. Pa. Pa. with a short ‘A’. Pa-mento loaf.”
“We always called it Pie-mento Loaf in Loogootee, Indiana.”
“Well, you’re in the big city now. Around here we call it Pa-mento Loaf.”
“Okay. Pa-mento it is.” I said, once again lying through my teeth, knowing full well that after 52 years of marriage, I had found yet another button I could push when the opportunity arose.
As is my custom, I like to learn all I can about the topic of my weekly drivel so I turned to the Internet to research the real skinny on Pimento Loaf. The search revealed that Pimento Loaf is also called Pickle and Pimento Loaf or just plain ‘P and P’ Loaf. This leads me to believe that the red and green things in the product are pickles and Pimentos.
Susie and I are not alone in not liking Pimento Loaf. The Google search also listed a website called ‘Holytaco.com’ that had an entry called ’25 incredibly nasty lunch meat products’ with Pimento Loaf being at the top of the list. There were others as well; potted meat food product, Olive Loaf, Liver spread, Liver cheese, Head Cheese and Old Fashion Loaf. Remember that one? It contains the most vile sounding ingredient I have ever come across in my years of traveling around the United States – mechanically separated chicken parts. What in God’s name are they doing to these poor chickens, anyway?
There were also two others on the HolyTaco list that made Susie recoil in horror when I showed her the pictures, ‘Pork brains with milk gravy’ was one. The can contained a grossly unappetizing picture of what I supposed were Pork Brains. The other was a can chock full of ‘Tongues’ made by a fellow named Tom Piper. There was no indication as to what kind of tongues they were although it doesn’t really matter. Just like PIE-mento Loaf, Susie would never allow something like that to cross our threshold.

No, it's not maggots. It's Tabouli

No, it’s not maggots. It’s Tabouli

I tried the Tabouli and did not care for it. The above picture is of the 2 week old leftovers. By the time you read this, the contents of the container will have been sent to the compost pile, the container will be washed and put away. I am now working on getting up the nerve to try canned Pork Brains with milk gravy. They say it’s quite good on scrambled eggs.

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What to do on a afternoon in Seattle.

Start your day with a 6 A.M. cup of strong Seattle coffee. One of my favorite parts about being here with my body still being on Indiana time. It’s no problem getting up at 5:30 and walking the 2 blocks to sip some hot coffee, read the paper and look out of the big plate glass windows to watch the world go by. It’s also good for the soul.

Zuka's tangletown coffee shop
Try the Taco truck for breakfast and share a burrito as big as your head with your spouse.

Please - no more pictures

Please – no more pictures

You haven’t seen the real Seattle until you’ve visited the Troll under the highway 99 bridge.

Hurry up. I don't like this. That eye is creepy.

Hurry up. I don’t like this. That eye is creepy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_Memorial_Bridge

Under the Highway 99 bridge spanning Lake Union.

Under the Highway 99 bridge spanning Lake Union.

An afternoon trip to Fremont to see the Vladimir Lenin statue is always fun. On this day, he had blood (fake) on his hands. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Lenin,_Seattle
If we ever decide to move to Seattle, the Fremont area is where I want to live.

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Train travel for dummies – part 3

This piece started life as a blog post but as usual, when it came time to submit my weekly gibberish to the newspapers, I wasn’t ready with what I was working on and was not in the mood to finish it. I grabbed what I had written for part 3 of my weblog series, cleaned it up and removed some stuff about farts and scratching myself. If you read on, You will probably figure out where I did that.
There is so much more to say about train travel but I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to putting it on here. It’s not all fun; long periods of staring out the window wishing I had something to munch on. I also missed talking to strangers about their lives, something I always did on previous train trips. Now everyone, including myself, have their noses stuck in a cell phone, tablet or laptop watching a movie or paging through endless and mostly mindless Facebook posts. I’m afraid we are being turned into a nation of Mark Zuckerbergs and it bothers me, not for myself so much but for our grandchildren.

My wife, Susie and I along with my daughter and granddaughter recently undertook a train trip from Chicago to Seattle to see our newest granddaughter, Audrey Rose. That means that this week’s drivel is coming to you from my son’s backyard in Washington State’s Emerald City. Traveling cross country by train on one of AMTRAK’s western routes is no longer a common experience so in keeping with this column’s spirit of public service, I thought it would be nice to touch briefly on the subject for those of you who will not be taking to the tracks anytime soon.
If you do decide to try cross country train travel -and I highly recommend it – your first decision after choosing a destination is to decide whether to purchase a coach seat ticket or pay the extra cost of a sleeper berth. The latter will provide you with free meals as well as a seat and a bed in a private compartment while the former forces you to pay for your meals in the dining car or bring your own food, something that requires a fair amount of logistical planning.
Choosing a coach seat also means spending one or two nights in a chair in a very public train car. During the day, the seat is very comfortable with lots of legroom and big windows that allow you to watch the world go by. It can also be reconfigured to provide a bit of comfort for sleeping; there are built in leg rests and a footrest. The seat also reclines but in the end, it’s still a chair and not a bed. The coach car is also not private and it seems like someone is always moving up and down the aisles and the pneumatically operated doors between the cars make a lot of noise.
On the other hand, the beds in the sleeping cars, while also serving as seats during the days, are enclosed in tiny compartments, providing enough privacy to get your pajamas on. That is why, if you can afford it at all, I recommend reserving a sleeper berth when you are putting together a cross country train trip.
Having traveled by train before, I knew that when we made the reservations for our just completed trip from Chicago to Seattle but I still went with a Coach seat because of the cost. I justified the decision because we were splitting our trip into 2 segments, breaking up the 3 day, 2 night trip by getting off the train for 3 days a little over half way into the trip at Glacier National Park. I figured anyone could handle sleeping one night while sitting up. I wasn’t totally wrong but I wasn’t totally right either.
We tried to prepare for getting a good night’s rest in our seat, bringing blanket-like afghans and pillows. That was one small step for mankind but there was nothing we could do about the fact that it would also help immensely to be small in stature, supple and arthritis-free when trying to curl up in a reclining seat. Neither Susie nor I fit the bill in any of these categories.
An added difficulty is trying to get comfortable in a seat while another person is trying to do the same thing in the seat right next to you. Luckily, that person was my soulmate; thus eliminating the worry of accidentally touching a complete stranger in some inappropriate manner in the middle of the night. I can’t imagine what I would do if I had to sleep next to a stranger. The best solution, although still not ideal, is having an empty seat next to you. This is not as difficult as it might seem. Individual seats are not reserved and a surprising number of people use the train to get from town to town so folks are always getting on or off at one of the numerous stops along the way, freeing up their seat or seats. A large group traveling from Chicago got off the train late in the evening in St. Paul, Minnesota freeing up several rows of seats. Seizing the moment, as it were, I left Susie in her seat and staked a claim to an empty row.
A few people got on the train at the same time and that’s when I spread out on the row, laying a magazine and a box of Cheezits on the empty seat beside me. I also assumed an unsocial look, hoping to discourage the folks walking down the aisle looking for a seat. Being the suave and debonair person that I am, I couldn’t bring myself to go so far as to pass gas or pick my nose as I suspected some other savvy travelers in the car were doing.
When the train left the St. Paul station, I began to go through the contortionist act of assuming the fetal position; wedging myself between the two armrests. I also had to negotiate the hidden steel bar between the two seats that requires constant adjustments in order to lessen the resulting hip pain.
When I awoke early, I was unable to walk without limping but I was consoled by the fact that I had saved a fair amount of money.
Not that I’m a skinflint or anything.

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Western train trip 2015 – Seattle City Centre-

Most of you know that the reason for our train trip was to visit Seattle and our Son’s family, including our new granddaughter. Yesterday we went to the Seattle City Centre where there is a new playground and a wonderful fountain where kids of all ages can play. The park is adjacent to the EMP Museum and the Space Needle

You can read more about the museum here :http://www.empmuseum.org/?code=brand_adwords&gclid=CKz-w_-osMYCFYhsfgodeFYA8Q

You can read more about the Space Needle here: http://www.spaceneedle.com/home/

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The Space Needle.

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The purple and aluminum building in the background is the EMP museum. Someone told me once that the shape of the building is supposed to resemble a smashed guitar but I have no idea if that is true or not.

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This climbing structure made me a little jealous as I watched kids climb these ropes. Too bad we didn’t have this in Loogootee, Indiana 70 years ago. I might have turned out to be a mountain climber. I decided it might be best if I did not climb this thing. I didn’t want someone to have to call the fire department.

The following pictures are self-explanatory. This is obviously a very popular attraction. The fountain has what seems to be an endless variety of sprays set to music. I did not participate in this either. I forgot my swim suit.

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Grandson Will enjoying the water

Grandson Will enjoying the water

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Train travel for Dummies – part one.

Some months ago, the pending arrival of a new grandchild was announced by our son and daughter-in-law in Seattle. My wife, Susie began making plans to visit the Northwest to see the baby when it arrived. ‘It’ became a ‘She’ a few weeks later after an ultrasound revealed the baby’s gender. I still marvel at this technological miracle because when our children were born, there was no way to accurately predict the baby’s sex until the actual birth.
One day, long ago, while I was painting the room where our first child would call home when he or she was born, I remarked to Susie that if I could figure out some way to identify a child’s gender in the womb, we could get rich.
“How would you go about doing that?” she asked.
“I don’t know, mirrors maybe.”
“You’re not getting around me with any mirrors, Buster. You can forget that.”
Oh, there were some old wives tales; a favorite of mine was “she’s carrying it high, must be a boy.” I never figured out what ‘carrying it high’ meant so I never bothered to keep any data on the accuracy of this particular belief because I wasn’t sure exactly where the boundary between ‘high’ and ‘low’.
But enough chit-chat. Getting back to visiting Seattle, we decided to take the train because our daughter, Julie and our granddaughter, Riley Marie wanted to go along and see some of the U.S.A. in the bargain. The train would allow us to do that so a couple of weeks before the baby was born, I made the reservations for the four of us.
I used the Amtrak website to book the tickets even though it’s a bit cumbersome. Example: the schedules are PDF files. Still, it is less time consuming than using the 1-800-USA-RAIL number. There can be long waits trying to reach a sales clerk. Still, in the past, on previous trips, I always called the sales number because I was more comfortable talking with a live person but I have learned to trust the website. I’m still a little bit leery about the identity thieves, though.
Train travel itself is not expensive. It’s the add-on of meals and any other things you might need to make the trip comfortable that drive up the prices. Amtrak offers Senior Citizens a 15 percent discount on coach seats which Susie and I took advantage of and our AAA membership card got us 10 percent on the other 2 tickets. The seats are roomy and quite comfortable and unlike the airplanes, a train car has plenty of leg room and the aisles are wide so it’s easy to stretch your legs. The seat also has enough in the way of attachments to help you almost make a single bed out of a seat but I should emphasize the word ‘almost.’

train coach car

train coach car

Which leads me to a nice segue on the other of the 2 travel options that AMTRAK offers. The other option is a sleeping berth which is also where you sit when the bed’s not made. Our 2 Coach seats were 340 dollars but a 2 person berth would have added around 500 dollars to that price. One consideration when looking at that price – the berths do include 4 meals each in the 2 night 45 hour trip which, if you ate them all, would be worth 60 to 70 dollars each. The sleeping berth prices vary with the length of advance bookings and I suspect, the season in which you’re traveling also plays a part. There are no discounts on sleepers, at least none that I know of.
We elected to ride Coach and rough it during the night to save money. After all, how bad could sleeping in the seat get? The answer to that question is easy. It’s pretty damn bad. Amtrak used to provide pillows and you could buy a cute little AMTRAK blanket to keep warm. They don’t do that anymore. I am assuming that Congress messing with the AMTRAK appropriation has something to do with it but don’t quote me on that.
Food was another way in which we planned to save some money. We planned on eating only the evening meal in the dining car on each of the 2 nights we were on the train. The other meals would be taken care of by food that we prepared or bought ready to eat.
Both the coach seat choice and the food planning did not go as well as planned but I’ll explain that on the next post. Right now, I’m still adjusting to that 3 hour time difference on the west coast and it’s way past time for bed.

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No Foghorn Leghorn for us.

For some time now, we have been talking about raising some chickens for their eggs but we couldn’t seem to get serious about it for several reasons. – To begin with, our travels pretty much prevented any idea of chickens although I briefly considered a chicken house on a small trailer that I could attach to the back of our fifth wheel, Fiona II. Susie and Indiana traffic laws cut that idea short.
There was also the problem with varmints. Hawks, dogs and coyotes were all a threat. I spent some time trying to design some sort of pen that would keep the chickens safe going so far as to study the layout of Guantanamo Bay but decided that was probably overkill on my part. Like so many of the things I plan, the chicken thing has not worked out thus far. However, I came across a story about the H-E-B stores in Texas rationing eggs with their customers because of a Flu virus infecting chickens causing them to be slaughtered by the millions. This was enough for me to start thinking about raising our own chickens again because some things have changed in our life.
For one thing, we are planning on cutting back on our travels and moving into a neighborhood on the Southside of Indianapolis. Several of our neighbors have backyard chickens and we have a fenced yardwhich will go a long way towards eliminating varmints. The only problem I have encountered thus far is that we are not allowed to have a rooster in this neighborhood. Thus the title of this post. Too bad. By the way, H-E-B Grocery stores are like Publix in Florida and Kroger in the Midwest. They dominate a good part of the South Texas grocery market.
Anyway, I wrote my column last week on this story and you will find it below. As you read, you will see that I wrote that I was setting out to do a story on Bruce Jenner but that’s not true at all. I only mentioned him in a kind of yellow journalism manner, trying to attract the prurient interests of my readers, such that they are. I wish now I hadn’t mentioned the Bruce Jenner thing at all. It’s a train wreck kind of story. Sad and completely incomprehensible to me. Anyway, my story on rationed eggs.

I don’t wish to start a panic amongst my loyal readers but I feel it is my duty as a sometime investigative journalist to let you know what’s going on around the country. Like every other News source in this country, I set out to do a piece on the biggest topic in the country; the saga of Bruce Jenner. But I have to tell you folks that this whole topic of conversation is just too weird for this old guy to comprehend so I abandoned that idea.
However, on a real newsworthy note; in doing my initial research, I came across a story on a severe outbreak of Avian bird flu in the United States that is causing the destruction of whole flocks of commercial egg laying poultry. This virus, like many of the products on our store shelves, is another present from China and is causing a huge disruption in the production of eggs for our everyday use.
That’s about all I have to say on the subject because if I go any further, it will require some serious research on my part and with my attention span, I feel that it is best to leave those kinds of efforts up to the full time staff of this newspaper.
However, I will tell you that this column originated because, in doing what little research I did do, I discovered that notices on egg rationing are beginning to pop up in grocery store dairy departments around the country. This revelation piqued my interest enough for me to do a quick, unofficial and very unscientific survey of stores in Central Indiana on the question of egg supplies. You will be happy to know that, at least for now, the survey did not produce any disturbing news about disruption of my morning breakfast routine.
“What did you call that again?” the dairy clerk asked after I informed him of my concern.
“Avian bird flu.” I said. “It’s from China.”
“No. Never heard of it. We get E-mails on that kind of thing and I haven’t seen any E-Mails. I believe the prices are going up though.”
And they are. I just paid 2.49 for a dozen which is about twice what we paid 5 years ago. That’s just another example of why retirement planning on a fixed income is almost impossible. 15 years ago, when we were planning our retirement, our financial planner never even considered the possibility of Avian Bird Flu and what it could do to our little nest egg. –Sorry, no pun intended. Actually, that’s a lie. I fully intended to do that and I had to rewrite this paragraph 3 times before I could make it readable. –
If the price goes much higher, this could turn into a real crisis. I have been eating eggs for breakfast since the chicken was invented. We may even have to consider raising our own chickens again. We tried that when we first moved to the country over 40 years ago but at that time, the cost of eggs had nothing to do with it. I really wanted to have fresh fried chicken like my Aunt Lucine used to make on the farm. That experiment didn’t work because we found out that neither of us had what it takes to kill a chicken. My mother and my Aunt made it look so easy but we couldn’t do it so the chickens continued to grow and get tough. When they started terrorizing the neighborhood dogs, we abandoned the project, rounding up the chickens and shipping them to Yellowstone National Park where they were released into the wild at the same time the Timberwolves were. Before you ask, I never heard what happened. Maybe Bigfoot had them for dinner.
Anyway, for the near future until I can get a chicken ranch established, I will keep telling myself that that the cost of eggs is relative. At 2.49 a dozen, that’s still only 20 cents an egg. That won’t break our food budget, especially if I can convince Susie that she really doesn’t need eggs for breakfast. I know that sounds selfish but it’s not. Her doctor is concerned with her blood test results and I’m just trying to help her with her cholesterol intake. Everyone knows eggs aren’t good for you.
Cereal is obviously much better for her. Honest. Still, I know what she’s going to say.
“I don’t remember the doctor saying I couldn’t have eggs and besides that, if cereal is better for me, then why isn’t cereal better for you?”
I don’t have an answer for her yet but I hope to have one before breakfast tomorrow.

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best laid plans……. #21

A few days ago, I realized that we no longer have a microwave bacon cooker. I have no idea where it went and being old, I can’t say with any certainty that we even got to Florida last November with one in tow. While I scratched my head for a while about where my cooker might have gone, I eventually quit with that task. You can drive yourself nutty trying to remember something that just isn’t memorable.
We went out last weekend haunting the yard sales and thrift stores trying to find one and had no luck at all. Didn’t even see one. I guess there is no market for used microwave bacon cookers.
We finally found a new one at Bed, bath and beyond which we took home with us. The thing required that the bacon be inserted vertically between inch tall posts and when we looked at it, Susie asked how we would ever clean in between those little posts. Long story, short, we took it back.
While we were there at B,B and B, I found that they were having a clearance sale on Bacon Bowls. I asked the clerk what they were and she explained this was a gizmo that allowed you to make bowls made from Bacon. -And we wonder why obesity is rampant. – It looked sort of like an old time orange juice squeezer only you wrapped bacon around it, making sure there were no holes…. Actually, you know what? I have no idea how the damn thing worked but apparently, if it was done properly, you ended up with a leak proof bowl made from bacon just waiting to hold your scrambled eggs or your garlic mashed potatoes.
Even though the appliance was on a clearance price, we decided against buying one. Later that day, my daughter sent me a link to Amazon where I could find all kinds of microwave bacon cookers, including the one that I had returned to B,B and B. There was also a model that looked just like the one we had before it disappeared. However, before I could thoroughly check it out, I was interrupted by some friends who were going to Beall’s outlet store where a HUGE 15 percent off sale was going on and naturally, Susie wanted to go along.
We had no more than gotten in the place when I came across this little dandy in the kitchen department.

Microwave Bacon Cooker.

Microwave Bacon Cooker.

7.99 minus my 15 percent discount. Why not? I brought it home, loaded it up with strips of bacon, put the thing inside and turned the Microwave on. Bad idea. the microwave rotisserie is round and my bacon cooker is rectangular. When the thing started to spin around, the cooker got hung up between the front and the back of the Microwave interior and went all catty-wompus on me. If I would have let it go on, the thing would have spilled bacon grease all over and Susie would not have been a happy camper. -Get it? happy camper. She really is a camper although she’s not always happy.-

I have already ripped the packaging apart so it looks like I’m stuck with it.
Maybe I can sell it at a yard sale.

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One man’s knick-knack is another man’s Bric-a-brac,

Last week I sat down to write my weekly column about a visit to a thrift store and wondered if describing it as ‘an upscale thrift store’ would be considered oxymoronic. I never came to any conclusion but decided to use it anyway, figuring that this would not be the first time I had offended someone’s grammar sensibilities.
Susie and I went to the store looking for bargains and I did find one; a leather jacket that makes me look a little bit like an elderly Alan Ladd.
At the store, I was also fascinated by the wide array of baubles which puzzled me since I have never had even the slightest interest in any of that stuff. I took a lot of pictures, deciding then that i would use my column to reflect on what a life devoid of knick-knacks is like but then I got side-tracked as I often do anymore.
I had no more than gotten into the piece and was searching for the right word to describe this stuff when I found myself reflecting on what the differences might be in knick-knacks and Bric-a-brac. After consulting my internet sources which described both as useless objects, I came to the conclusion that there is no difference other than the fact that knick-knacks are featured in a children’s nursery rhyme that contains several verses beginning with this one:

This old man, he played one,
He played knick-knack on my thumb;
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

As a child, I used to wonder if there was any connection to the afore-mentioned old man who came rolling home and the little pig who went ‘we-we-we-we- all the way home. If there is, I never came across it although I was intrigued by nursery rhyme writers who were interested in ways of arriving at home. None of this speculation made it into my column -I didn’t want my readers to think me weird.

KNICK-KNACKS

I have been spending a lot of time recently reflecting on the life I have led thus far. I suppose it’s because I have a birthday coming up shortly, one that will mark my 75th year on this planet. All that reflecting has left me with the conclusion that, aside from meeting Susie, growing up in a small town in Southern Indiana was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.
Oh, I know there were times when I was dissatisfied with my laid back life in Loogootee, Indiana where time seemed to move at about a quarter of the speed that it does now. Sometimes, in the evenings, sitting on the porch of our home on Dewey Street studying the stars, I dreamed of having been born the son of a St Louis Cardinal baseball player or a Chicago railroad engineer or a fishing boat captain who plied his trade in the Gulf of Mexico waters around Apalachicola, Florida. I even wished that I could have been a close relative of a bar and grill owner in some Polish or Hungarian Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania neighborhood. Also, even though I now wonder why I would have ever wanted this, I have to confess that at one time I was jealous of some cousins of mine who lived in the hustle and bustle of Gary, Indiana with its plethora of pawn shops, stop lights and interesting characters leaning against the corners of downtown buildings.
By and large however, I was happy as a child even though I grew up in less than stellar surroundings. I won’t say I didn’t know we were of modest means; other than ours, very few homes in our neighborhood had outhouses in the back yard or coal piles outside the back door to ward off the winter cold. I suppose that today, folks who live in circumstances such as what we grew up in are considered underprivileged but I would never describe my early life using a word such as that. Even had I wanted too, I doubt that the word had even been invented in 1946.
I cannot envision having a better childhood anywhere although it is correct to say that I wasn’t always crazy about the times when we chose up sides for our baseball games on the field behind John Graves’ house and my name was called after Mary Beth’s, the girl across the street. I will say that can finally admit that she had a better arm than I did. I tell you these things not because of some recently discovered sense of ‘woe is me’. Instead, what I set out to tell you today is this; I made a startling discovery while going through the ‘lot of time reflecting on my life’ I mentioned at the beginning of this piece.
It all came about a few days ago when my wife Susie and I were patrolling the numerous upscale Thrift shops in the area of Southwest Florida where we are waiting out the cold weather in Indiana. I watched as Susie paraded through the aisles, picking up objects and examining them with all the thoroughness of a Los Angeles Coroner performing a post-mortem autopsy on an unfortunate murder victim.
Susie could do this all day if we had the time. I used to pester her about ‘hurrying up a little’ but I am growing to learn that I am better off just keeping my mouth shut while she goes through this exercise. I am learning the art of patience while also trying to figure out what exactly is so interesting in these hundreds of used items lining the shelves of these places.
I stood in front of a brightly lighted glass cabinet studying the small curios, trinkets , baubles and other worthless objects lining the shelves within and that is when I made the aforementioned ‘startling discovery’.
“Good Lord, I am standing in the middle of knick-knack, bric-a-brac Heaven.” I mumbled to myself, looking around to see if anyone heard me. Decorated teacups, wax flowers, wind-up music boxes, glass bells, small vases, intricately carved salt and pepper shakers, rightly painted German beer steins, tiny elaborate jewelry boxes and even compositions of bird feathers clung to the glass shelves of the glass cabinets.
As I stood there staring, it hit me that these things were never a part of my life and I didn’t even know it. There’s no way my widowed mother , bless her heart, could never have afforded any of that fancy stuff. About the only things of this nature that we had was a framed picture of FDR and a bowl full of book matches bearing the logo of Nippie’s pool room, the Diamond Café, Burch’s Garage and the Southside tavern.
This realization has been traumatic for me. Even though I now consider myself a suave and debonair individual, I have come to understand that, among all these items, I have no idea what constitutes knick-knacks and what might be classified as Bric-a-Brac. And what’s even worse, by not having these things in my childhood, I have concluded that I may have led an underprivileged life after all.
Sweet mother of Pearl, Woe is me.

photo (20)

photo (21)

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small appliance OCD. A sad disease.

I fell in love with small electric appliances shortly after my wife and I received our first 2 speed Electric Mixer, a General Electric Model, as a wedding present. This was in 1964 and by mid-1965, I got the hang of moving the mixer around the edge of the bowl and began turning out cake batters and mashed potatoes by the bucket load. It gave me such satisfaction that I traded that unit in for a 3 speed model which allowed me to refine my mixing capabilities by several degrees of proficiency. As we added additional appliances, I became obsessed with the things, leading to the subject matter of this column written near the end of January, 2015.

Last Fall, when Susie and I were preparing to come to Florida for the winter, as we always do we had a discussion about what needed to go with us and what needed to stay home. There is not room for many things, including small appliances. I have spoken before about my affinity for small appliances; a kinship I’ve felt since the days of my grandmother’s toaster; a model with a frayed cord and 2 little doors that opened on the sides, requiring a pause midway through the toasting process and a careful flipping of the bread. One careless move and you had a burned finger or two.
As soon as I was old enough to begin accumulating my own appliances, I did. Even today, an electric skillet, a Crock pot, mixer, electric knife and can opener, coffee pot, electric griddle and a toaster that will also boil an egg are all still in their boxes and stored away for the day when we finally decide we’ve had enough of living in Fiona II’s 400 square feet of living space where there is no room for such luxuries.
Before you ask why I have not mentioned waffle irons it’s because I do not have a waffle iron. I just cannot abide waffles; all that syrup standing around in those little waffle pockets making me queasy. However, there is an electric ice cream maker in my stash of future appliances. It’s not in a box though because it’s not new. I bought it at a yard sale. Susie does not share my kinship with these little wired beauties. She thinks I’m nuts. Is this weird or what?
She threw a fit some months ago when I came home with the latest new crockpot.
“We already have a crockpot under the sink and one in a box in the attic.”
“I know. This one is for the future when the other new one breaks.” I told her. “These things do wear out, you know.”
I have tried to explain to her that my obsession is perfectly normal; even one of her closest friends is called ‘the gadget lady’ because her kitchen is filled with things that even I have no use for; food dehydrators and the Ronco instant glass froster to mention a couple. If it’s in a box is marked ‘as seen on TV’ , this lady has it. There is even an autographed 8 x 10 photo of Ron Popiel hanging above the battery operated lid of her stainless steel trash can.
Susie sees no problem with the gadget lady so that’s why I couldn’t understand when she objected to taking our toaster oven to Florida. I love that oven but she does not care for it. Something in her distant past, I suppose, although I can’t imagine what it might be.
“We don’t have room for that thing.”
“I’ll make room for it outside when we get to Florida. It will really come in handy. “
“Outside?”
“Duh,” I said. “It’s Florida. We practically live outside anyway.”
It took some persuasion but I finally won that argument and now our toaster oven is perched on top of the dorm refrigerator that sits outside on the patio. I haven’t used the oven yet this winter but that’s only because I’m saving it for a special occasion. I don’t want to wear it out, you know.
That stance resulted in a discussion yesterday as I was preparing our lunch; two pot pies and a salad. I was busy lighting the oven in Fiona’s gas range; RV ovens are peculiar in that lighting them requires sticking your head in the oven and lighting the pilot light with a match. This is something that Susie refuses to do because this operation is a bit sketchy. The pilot light is stubborn and there is usually a small buildup of propane before it finally catches, resulting in a small ‘POOF’ as the gas ignites.
“Why don’t you use the toaster oven? It’s perfect for that and an added bonus is that you won’t blow us all to kingdom come with that stove.”
I mumbled something about making messes with bubbling over pot pies. In reality I couldn’t bring myself to use my oven, I believe General Electric has built-in only so many uses of that appliance and I didn’t want to waste one of them on a pot pie, for God’s sake.
Instead, I went on my lighting the gas oven and was eventually successful in my efforts, losing only a bit of my eyebrows. Not to worry, however. My eyebrows always grow back at an astounding rate. I ask you, ain’t Mother nature grand?
* * * * * * * *

Note from Susie: , I’m sorry to tell you folks that this guy is so full of it. I don’t mind that toaster oven. Just don’t ask me to use it.

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Interesting stuff.

I was working on my column for next week and found this web site this morning while looking up the origin of the phrase ‘worth one’s salt’. I don’t know the protocol -if there is one- on how to treat the web sites of others but I found it to be interesting and thought some of you folks might as well so I am going to give you the link. Check out:

http://www.phrases.org.uk/quotes/last-words/index.html

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