Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Esteemed Readers of a certain age will remember a “swirly” as a particularly unpleasant schoolboy prank - the act of holding a victim upside down with his head in the toilet and flushing.

My grandmother’s venerable tube pan.
But the word “swirly” also puts me in mind of certain baked goods. I recall, in particular, a black-and-white marble cake my grandmother used to make in her venerable tube pan, a cake with a distinctive flavor that, even now, I can tease out of the recesses of my Sense-Memory.  Grandma Shirley’s considerable culinary skills, truth be told, were not their strongest in the field of baking, yet this is the one marble cake to which I compare all marble cakes unto this very day... and not one of them quite measures up.

Whether impelled by nostalgia or the artistic impulse, this week I cranked out a couple of swirl-related items: a couple of loaves of cinnamon swirl bread, and a lemon-matcha pound cake.

I had been asked to bring a cake to a break-fast meal hosted by our friends Barry and Malka.  Break-fast, it should be pointed out, is not quite the same as breakfast: The latter is the first meal one takes in the morning, the former the meal one snarfs down at the conclusion of Yom Kippur after having abstained from food or drink for some 27-odd hours.  Breakfast staples like cold cereal, grits, toast, eggs, and (especially!) bacon don’t make an appearance at the break-fast table.  Typically, there will be an array of dairy and fish dishes... nothing too heavy... and, of course, desserts.

But what cake to bring?  Something chocolatey?  Something with layers and icing?  Or something reasonably straightforward?  I settled on the lemon-matcha marble pound cake I had seen in a post at Joy the Baker, one of the Mistress of Sarcasm’s favorite sites.

I’m not sure what sold me on this cake, the mouth-watering photographs in Joy’s post or the idea of a pound cake containing matcha, Japanese powdered green tea.  (I am, after all, a big fan of matcha as a food ingredient, having used it in several recipes.)  Regardless of the why, the what turned out to be very satisfying, a fine coda to a delightful break-fast meal.

Lemon-Matcha Pound Cake slice
A slice of lemon-matcha marble pound cake awaits my eager fork. The only way to improve this stuff is to throw it in the toaster until it’s a golden brown, and then to apply a thick topcoat of sweet butter.

There were more swirlies.  For some perverse reason, I took it into my head to bake up a couple of loaves of cinnamon-swirl bread.  Regrettably enough, these turned out to be delectable... especially after I went and French-toastified one of the loaves.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread
There oughta be a law against bread that tastes this good...

...and if there were, making French toast out of it would be a hanging offense. Good Gawd.

One of the pleasant features of swirly, marbly cakes and breads is that every slice reveals a slightly different pattern of light and dark... a sort of culinary Rorschach test.  Look - a snake!  A bunny!  A couple of goats, humping!  Plus, you get to eat the slice after you’ve talked to your shrink.


Andy Williams
Andy Williams, 1927-2012. Requiescat in pace.

Styx river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style today
Oh, undertaker, you heart breaker
Where Charon is going, I’m going his way...

(apologies to Johnny Mercer)

Andy Williams, who first appeared on this planet two days before my very own Momma, has passed away at the age of 84 from complications of bladder cancer.  Aficionados of Easy Listening music will be wearing black armbands for the next thirty days.

Andy was a crooner’s crooner with a pile of gold records as tall as he was... but the song he is most closely identified with is “Moon River,” a tune with music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, the latter indelibly connected with Savannah, Georgia.  Audrey Hepburn sang it in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), but it was Williams’s smooth baritone that made it a real hit.

If you classify people’s musical tastes by whether they prefer Elvis to the Beatles, or the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, the folks in the Andy Williams camp will be outside your polling parameters.  Andy-Boy was easy listening all the way... although I always wondered what his cover version of the Beatles’ “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” would’ve sounded like.  Now I guess I’ll never know.

Ave atque vale, good Mr. Williams:

May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Or better yet, singst thou to them -
’Cause it’s what thou didst best.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


All vows, renunciations, bans, oaths, formulas of obligation, pledges, and promises that we vow or promise to ourselves and to God from this Yom Kippur to the next - may it approach us for good - we hereby retract. May they all be undone, repealed, cancelled, voided, annulled, and regarded as neither valid nor binding. Our vows shall not be considered vows; our renunciations shall not be considered renunciations; and our promises shall not be considered promises. - the Kol Nidrei prayer, translation per Machzor Lev Shalem

The most solemn service of the Jewish year takes place at the start of the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) holiday at sunset... and it begins with the above liturgy: Kol Nidrei.

Kol Nidrei is not so much a prayer as a legal formula, with the congregation standing in for the Beit Din, the panel of judges that, in the Old Days, would render legal decisions on all manner of cases affecting the Jewish community.  It is nothing more or less than the annulment of vows.

On the surface, one could see it as a troubling idea.  If you can renounce all your promises simply by reciting a legal formula, why, then, your sworn word is worthless.  You cannot be trusted.  And this, indeed, is an interpretation given free rein over the centuries by various and sundry Jew-haters.

But Kol Nidrei was never intended, nor was it ever used, as a means to escape from one’s obligations to one’s fellow human beings.  You could not make a promise or incur a debt and then use Kol Nidrei as a way to escape performance or repayment.  Kol Nidrei, rather, is a way for us to walk back a rashly made promise or vow made to ourselves or to God.

How often do we make those sorts of promises?  It’s certainly a popular enough pastime around the turn of the secular year... all of those resolutions that we know, deep in our hearts, that we have little or no intention of keeping.  “I’m going to go to the gym more often.”  “I’m going to lose ten pounds.”  “I’m going to go to shul more than three times a year.”  “I’m going to give more to United Way this year.”  “This year, I’m finally going to get organized.”

In the Scriptures, we are commanded that “...if a man will take a vow to the Lord or will swear an oath to establish a prohibition upon himself, he shall not desecrate his word; according to whatever comes from his mouth shall he do.” (Numbers 30:3)  Promises, in other words, are not something to be taken lightly, and when we break them, we are doing a Bad Thing... even if the only entities affected by our nonperformance are ourselves and God.  Especially if... because pledges or vows made to others can be enforced by society, but only we know what we have promised to ourselves or God.

Who among us has not made a rash promise that we wish we could take back?  In the heat of the moment we make all kinds of stupid vows, never thinking overmuch about the moral consequences of simply pretending we never made them.

That’s where Kol Nidrei comes in.  It is our chance to admit that we got in a little bit over our heads.  Bit off more than we could chew.  Made promises to ourselves that we could not keep, deals we could not carry out.

It is, after all, part of the Human Condition, this need for the Do-Over.

Tuesday evening, as our Hazzan stands before our congregation surrounded by a solemn assemblage of our community’s leaders - each carrying a Torah scroll in its silver adornments and snow-white mantle - to chant those ancient words, I will be thinking of all those promises, vows, and deals. And I will be comforted in knowing that, when we are in over our heads, the Eternal One always offers us a life-preserver.

גמר חתימה טובה - g’mar chatimah tovah - may the next year be a good one for you - signed, sealed, and delivered.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


It’s traditional to wish people a שנה טובה ומתוקה (shanah tovah u-metukah) - a good, sweet New Year - during the Jewish High Holiday season. That desire for a sweet year is reflected in the symbolic custom of eating apples dipped in honey... sweetness layered upon sweetness.

This year, we had three - count ’em! - three different varieties of honey at our table.  A honey trifecta, if you will.

Three Honeys
Three different types of honey grace the Table of Elisson, hopefully a foretaste of a triply-sweet year. 

In the covered glass dish toward the rear is delicately perfumed tupelo honey, from the flowers of the white tupelo trees that grow in the Florida panhandle.  Unlike most varieties of honey, tupelo honey does not crystallize.

On the left, in the beehive-shaped dish, is buckwheat honey, a dark honey with a unique assertive flavor... in many ways the polar opposite of tupelo honey.

In the open dish on the right is date honey, AKA silan. Many scholars say that this is the honey referred to in the Bible when it speaks of Israel as “a land flowing with milk and honey,” despite there being evidence of apiaries as old as the tenth century B.C.E.  I’m not an especial fan of dates - to me they look like the bastard offspring of prunes and cockroaches - but their sweet syrup has a distinctive, intriguing honey-like taste.  I picked up a bottle of the stuff at Masada in July, and since then I’ve used it to make challah loaves with a special extra touch of Israel.

The apples?  Granny Smiths and Galas... both of which went perfectly well with the various types of honey.

But the best treat might have been the challah, which, properly buttered, served as an excellent honey conveyance device... and, it is hoped, the harbinger of a bready, heady year.


Gefilte Fish
SWMBO’s gefilte fish, with its traditional garnish of carrot slices.  Less traditionally, she glazes the fish with tomato sauce or tops it with lemon pepper... delicious either way.

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting Eli (hizzownself) and listening to him regale one of his buddies with stories of the Old Neighborhood, a discussion that had started with a few nostalgic comments about Gefilte Fish.

There are not many people aside from us Red Sea Pedestrians who will wax nostalgic on the topic of gefilte fish... mainly because, unlike, say, bagels, these little fish dumplings have not, as yet, made it to the American culinary mainstream. I used to say that that was because gefilte fish was something of an acquired taste, but that’s not really true. Properly prepared, it’s really a fine dish... with or without the sinus-clearing blast of chrain - horseradish - that usually accompanies it.  More likely, it’s just too frickin’ ethnic.

It may also be because the only example most people have ever seen are those nasty jars from Manischewitz, crammed with lumpy little fish balls in an unspeakable jelly. Even the most dedicated aspic lovers get a little queasy when confronted with the goop from a gefilte fish jar, never mind that it doesn’t taste nearly as vile as it looks. Sometimes you’ll find the stuff in cans, the main advantage of which is their opacity.  (What you can’t see can’t gross you out.)

But Eli remembers when his mother - my grandmother - would make gefilte fish from scratch, and that was an entirely different kettle of, err... fish.

She would procure carp, whitefish, and/or pike, carefully remove the skin and bones, then chop the flesh into a fine paste. This she would blend with eggs, matzoh meal, onions, and her secret blend of eleven different herbs and spices before stuffing it back into the fish skin to be poached. (“Gefilte” means “stuffed.”)

There were no food processors back then. I seem to remember my grandmother grinding the fish up in a meat grinder, but that could have been something else. Kreplach filling, perhaps. Most of the time she would use a wooden bowl with a curved chopper that fit right into the bowl - what Italian housewives would call a mezzaluna, and in Yiddish a hock-messer.

What my dad recalled in such poignant detail was that Friday afternoon was gefilte fish day. The sound of hock-messers smacking against wooden bowls would reverberate throughout the neighborhood as all of the housewives made the gefilte fish for that evening’s Shabbat dinner.

I remember my grandmother’s gefilte fish. Compared to the boring commercial versions, it was a bit... scary. It looked like a fish, for crying out loud! But as I got older, I learned to appreciate the qualities of the homemade product. It was fresh, not nearly as bland. And its lumpy surface bore the imprint of my grandmother’s hands.

Gefilte fish may go mainstream yet. And when it does, I’ll be ready.

*The Fish of Yesteryear

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Cone of Shame
Hakuna sports the Cone of Shame - a plastic Elizabethan collar that keeps her from chewing up her IV lines whilst lodging at the Veterinary Hotel. As you can see from her sour expression, she is not happy about it.

Hakuna, alas, is ailing.

She is an elderly kitty, to be sure, having turned seventeen in April - but until recently, she still managed to have her Sprightly Moments despite spending more and more time snoozing about the house.  A few weeks ago at her last annual physical, though, there were some ominous portents.

Her weight and appearance were all normal, her only outward problem being a bad tooth that was going to have to be removed.  But her bloodwork showed elevated BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine levels, the first signs that her kidneys were beginning to fail.

Bare-Legged Hakuna
Heart of Lion, Legs of Poodle: Home from the vet, Hakuna strikes a familiar leonine pose, apparently unconcerned about her vaguely poodle-like appearance.

The dental work would have to wait until her kidney function improved: first things first.  But she rebelled against the soft Good for Kitty Kidneys food the vet prescribed, showing her displeasure by barfing it up all over the house... and a recheck of her kidney functions showed an alarming decline just eleven days later.

A three-day stay in the Kitty Hospital followed, complete with intravenous fluids, a special low-protein diet that (happily) she tolerated well, and the dreaded Cone of Shame, by the end of which her numbers had improved somewhat... but not nearly enough to allow her to undergo sedation or anesthesia.  Nevertheless, she could come home.

Life is different for her now.  Once every day or two, we jab her with a hypodermic needle and jack her up with 200 cc’s of lactated Ringer’s solution.  We’ve switched her to a low-protein, low-phosphorus diet that supposedly is easier on the kidneys.  And we wait.

In the best of all possible worlds, Hakuna’s kidney function improves after having had some of the load taken off.  She has her bad tooth extracted and goes on about her life.

We really don’t want to think about the alternative.  The subcutaneous fluids are a pain in the ass for us and no fun for her, but she seems to put up with them, howbeit unwillingly.  The true test will be whether she resumes her normal indolent activities, or whether she hides under Elder Daughter’s bed and generally makes herself scarce.

I’ll be happy if only she’ll play with the Elusive Red Laser-Dot.


Sure, and it’s fast approaching... Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Round Challah

Here are a couple of fresh-from-the-oven challah loaves, baked in the traditional turban-style round loaves that signify the great Wheel of Time, the eternal cyclicality of the years.  Some say that the round shape represents the crown worn by the Almighty, King of the Universe.

Symbolism, schmymbolism.  I say it’s tasty good.  (I suppose we’ll find out for sure this evening.)

May your New Year be Tasty Good as well!

Friday, September 14, 2012


[In case you’re curious about the post title, “narrischkeit” is simply good old-fashioned foolishness... something with which I am all too familiar.] 

The Jewish New Year - Rosh Hashanah - begins at sundown this coming Sunday and continues until sundown Tuesday.  To all of my friends and family, whether you’re a fellow Red Sea Pedestrian or not, may the coming year bring you life, health, happiness, and success: shanah tovah u’metukah, a good, sweet year.

Long-time Esteemed Readers of this site know that International Talk Like a Pirate Day is observed on September 19, which this year falls on the day after Rosh Hashanah.  Coincidentally, that day is a minor fast day - the Fast of Gedaliah - on which observant Jews will abstain from food or drink from sunrise to sunset.

If there is any religious significance to the juxtaposition of Talk Like a Pirate Day and Tzom Gedaliah, I would sure love to know what it is... particularly since many people who observe TLAPD are adherents of Pastafarianism, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  Please feel free to submit your theological treatises in the Comments.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


My buddy Yabu over at Bad Bad Juju has had it up to here with people who gripe about bloggers who post pictures of food.

I’ll admit that food photos - and the people who take them - can be a tad obnoxious.  Plenty of us have been guilty of snapping pictures of our food and drink, and then slapping all of it up on Facebook, Twitter, or (gasp!) our blogs for all to admire.  It’s almost become a cottage industry - lookee!

(OK, this is a fake ad.  But still...)

But in a way, I understand it.  Those of us who post food pictures might be doing it out of braggadocio - Look what I’m eating!  Look what I cooked! - or justifiable pride... or they might simply want to share good times with their friends.  After all, what’s more fun than eating and drinking? (I mean, something you can post about on a family blog.)

In my case, I like to post photos of food I’ve prepared.  There’s a big “Lookit!  I cooked this myself!” component, but there’s also a desire to show off my photography skills and to share good food... for which reason I often include the recipe, either outright or as a link.

Here are a few of my own food-posts, just to give you a taste:

Three Days of Face-Stuffing

Charcuterie for You ’n’ Me

Crimson Tide

Hills: A 100-Word Fantasy

Barbecue in Birmingham, Yet Again

A Better Babka

And there’s the cat-daddy of food posts - it may not have any plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex models, but it does have a couple of spiffy Navy uniforms:

Captain Jack Will Get You Stuffed Tonight

You can always go to my “Comestibobbles and Potaboobles” post category if that ain’t enough for ya.  Hell, I even put a whole book of food photos together.  (What a fucking egomaniac.)

Look: Food, like flowers, is ephemeral.  Flowers fade and shrivel; food is shit the next day.  But let’s celebrate it while we can... and if you don’t want to look at food pictures, I’m sure there are plenty of other sites out there that will offer up your minimum daily requirements of sad-eyed clowns, cats with cute captions, and bloviating rants on the politics of the day.

Monday, September 10, 2012


“Appoint a teacher for yourself; acquire a friend for yourself…” - Pirkei Avot 1:6

The other day at breakfast, the Missus and I were discussing an item in the news... a Georgia pilot program in which students as young as five would be surveyed on their teachers’ performance. The results of the surveys would be considered as part of the school’s teacher evaluation process, which means – in theory – that a cranky kindergartener could, in some small way, determine whether a teacher gets to keep her job.

These are the sorts of things that convince me that we, as a society, have lost our collective minds.

Anyone who has spent any time in school whatsoever – presumably including the geniuses who designed this pilot program – knows that five-year-olds have no business determining the career paths of the people who exercise authority over them. And middle-schoolers would probably welcome the opportunity to stick it to teachers who rubbed them the wrong way. There are plenty of situations in which the people receiving services can provide fair, disinterested, and well-reasoned evaluations of their service providers, but being a student in a public school is most definitely not one of them. The Missus and I could only shake our heads in disbelief.

It occurred to me that, with respect to the numerous teachers I had while in public school, my opinions of them while in school were considerably different from those I held years later. And it only makes sense. In school, the teacher is the source of both knowledge and discipline: the former to be absorbed, the latter under which one must necessarily chafe. Four or five decades down the road, the teachers that I remember most fondly are the ones who nurtured and developed that thirst for knowledge, even unto awakening an interest in subjects where previously there had been none. And strangely, the teachers who were tough disciplinarians with finely tuned bullshit detectors – the ones who would knock me down a peg or two and help me temper my natural cockiness with welcome humility – are among those that, in retrospect, I loved best.

I must have had a latent soft spot for teachers. After all, I ended up marrying one.

And I had plenty of good ones.  A few, not so good.  Several, better than good.  Of course, my opinions of them generally improved with time.  How much of that is due to the natural human tendency to forget unpleasantness and remember the good, and how much due to my increasing maturity, I cannot say.

One in particular always stood out in my mind: Miss Barbara Polsbie.

I first encountered Miss Polsbie in ninth-grade French class. During my high school career, I would alternate between her and the formidable Mrs. Hamburger, from whom I learned both French and German... but it was always Miss Polsbie’s classes I looked forward to. And this was strange, because Miss Polsbie was no soft touch. As a teacher, she was tough, pushing us to achieve. Tests, quizzes, essays - we had them all, in ever-increasing doses.

And yet, there was a sparkle in her eye, a sense of humor. She would recite a twisted fairy tale, crammed with spoonerisms, that began, “Tonce upon a wine...” and that would have us all rolling in the aisles of the classroom.

One time, I tested her limits of tolerance. Assigned to run the 16mm projector (this was back when, to see a movie, you would thread “film” in an intricate path through a “projector,” which would then show the images on a “screen”), I deliberately set the device to run at 16 fps instead of 24. After the interminable opening credits, the soundtrack started up in all its slow-mo glory, causing the class to roar with laughter. But when Miss P. focused her laser-like gaze on me and said “Étienne!” I knew the jig was up – there was no way this was an inadvertent error, and she knew it. She said nothing more at the time, but I was never asked to run the projector again... and the lousy attitude grade I got dinged with for the marking period was icing on the cake. Message received.

It was Miss Polsbie who took our class to New York City to see the Comédie Française on Broadway in the spring of our senior year. We enjoyed a real French pre-theatre dinner at Les Pyrenées – I had the lapin provençal, rabbit with olives - and we all had a grand old time feeling like real boulevardiers.

Some years after high school, I looked up Miss Polsbie and had a very pleasant visit with her while on a business trip to the New York area. I felt like the Prodigal Son, having gone off to university and thence to work in Sweat City at the Great Corporate Salt Mine. More like equals now and less like student and teacher, we talked about old times... and then went our separate ways.

Over the intervening years, I would think of Miss Polsbie every so often. When the Missus and I honeymooned in Québec and my ability to speak French during those separatist days came in especially handy... when I took my first trip to Europe and dined at La Couronne in Brussels, carrying on reasonably fluent conversations with my colleagues and their spouses en français... when I spent one memorable night in Paris, strolling the Champs-Elysées and speaking not one word of English... and, most recently, while visiting my cousin’s family in Jerusalem, where French and Hebrew were the preferred languages for making oneself understood with his elder daughter.

* * *

Last Thursday I was in the New York area, visiting Eli (hizzownself). As we sat watching the U.S. Open tennis matches, I was idly checking CrackBook... and that’s how I received the news that Miss Polsbie had passed away that morning.

Ahh, technology. The same social media tech that had allowed me to connect with countless friends and acquaintances from the Old Days delivered that nasty little piece of news, filling me with regret. I had never reconnected with Miss Polsbie, and now the opportunity was gone forever. I would never be able to tell her how she had, in her own way, influenced me in so many little ways.

The funeral was to be the next morning, with one Rabbi Ronald Brown officiating. Somehow, the knowledge that Miss Polsbie was Jewish – a fellow Red Sea Pedestrian! – had eluded me all those years. Given that I was already in the New York area and that the service would be held less than fifteen minutes away from The Other Elisson’s place, I resolved to attend... and thus it was that with a borrowed suit and tie (The Other Elisson is a hair taller than me, but we are otherwise of a size these days), I showed up to pay my respects.

At the service, there was a modest crowd of friends and former colleagues, but no family: Barbara was the last of her line. Without family members and without the presence of the requisite quorum of ten Jews – a minyan – there would be no recitation of the Kaddish, the traditional mourner’s doxology. And yet...

True, Miss Polsbie had no children of her own – no biological offspring, anyway. Yet all of us who filled her classroom were, in a way, her children. Subtly or overtly, we who were her students all bear the imprint of her teaching and of her personality. By the grace of the Eternal One, I was able to represent us at her funeral... and thus on me falls the responsibility of reciting Kaddish for the appropriate period of mourning.

Farewell, B’rachah bat Miriam. You were a very special teacher, and you will be remembered.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Given that this Friday just past - the opening shot of Labor Day Weekend - was SWMBO’s birthday, you can pretty much assume that the whole of the last three days has been one orgy of Face-Stuffage.

For the Missus’s birthday supper Friday evening, we had a two-entrée extravaganza.  Chicken with roasted red peppers, artichokes, and capers... and if that were not enough protein for you, there was a glazed bison meatloaf.

It’s not a birthday without cake, and this time I decided on a French apple cake.  It’s a recipe from the latest Cook’s Illustrated, one that was test-piloted a few weeks back by none other than Eric, the Tennessee Renaissance Man himself.  And dayum, was it tasty.

French Apple Cake
French apple cake.

A slice of French Apple Cake
Custardy and apple-y on the bottom, cakey on the top - it’s almost like having two cakes in one. Kinda sorta.

Aviation Cocktail
It ain’t a party without a nice Adult Beverage. Pictured: the Aviation Cocktail, bedecked with Luxardo maraschino cherry.

If we had simply stopped eating after Friday evening, dayyenu - that would have been enough for us. But no.  There was more.  There was a wonderful Sunday brunch with our friends Barry and Malka, featuring traditional Israeli dishes like shakshouka - poached eggs in a tomatoey, chile peppery sauce - and all manner of cheeses and smoked fish.

There was even more after that.

Monday, I decided to treat myself to a nice plate of pastrami and eggs, using some of the beef pastrami I had made last week.  Listen: Corned beef hash has its partisans, as do other Breakfast Meats like the Taylor pork roll, bacon, sausage, you name ’em.  But if you have never had pastrami and eggs, you have truly missed out on one of the great breakfast dishes of all time.  And like Levi’s Real Jewish Rye Bread, you don’t need to be a Red Sea Pedestrian to enjoy it.

The peppery, smoky aroma the meat gives off as it browns in the pan conjures up images of the great New York delis.  Katz’s.  Sammy’s Roumanian.  The Second Avenue Deli.  Shmulke Bernstein’s.

Pastrami and Eggs
Pastrami and eggs.

Ham and eggs?  Biscuits and gravy?  Shrimp and grits?  This stuff kicks their asses like a red-headed stepchild... and you can take that to the bank.