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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Photo: Lydia Callis’s Face for NYC Mayor
She has been called “a bright light in dark days” (NPR) as well as the breakout star of Superstorm Sandy.  I refer, of course to Lydia Callis, the American Sign Language interpreter who stood at the side of New York’s Mayor Bloomberg as he issued his frequent emergency management updates.

Mayor Bloomberg may have been doing the talking, but my eyes were riveted to Ms. Callis, whose amazingly expressive facial expressions made her signing fascinating... and almost intelligible to someone like me who has no clue about ASL.  In a better world, she would be teaching a Ph.D.-level course at the Colorado School of Mimes.

Sign language is not funny business, especially when serious messages about Big Events are being delivered.  And yet, expressiveness - even exaggerated expressiveness - is an important component of ASL’s ability to convey information.  What at first glance may seem ridiculous or comedic is actually a legitimate aspect of physical communication.  I will be interested to hear Elder Daughter’s take on the matter, given that she is currently engaged in graduate studies of advanced performance art.

If there is not a Saturday Night Live skit featuring someone playing (and not being quite as interesting as) Ms. Callis, I will be both shocked and disappointed.  And I wish her a long, happy career.

On a more serious note, our prayers and best wishes go out to those affected by the blow variously known as Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm Sandy, and Frankenstorm.  Our family in the New York area has, thankfully, been spared any major consequences aside from the ubiquitous power outages... but not everyone has been so fortunate.  May their burdens be lightened swiftly.

Update: Sure enough, SNL has checked in:

(Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to both Bou and the Mistress of Sarcasm for the link!)


Still more stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Long-time readers of my previous site may recall the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary, installments of which may be found in that site’s Archives.

For other entries in the Cheese Aisle Dictionary, simply click on the sidebar link for Cheese-Dic.

And now for the Word of the Day...

ass-soul patch [ass-ole-patch] (n) - A tuft of hair located at the base of the buttcrack.

“Me and Joanie were getting pretty hot and heavy last Saturday night, but as soon as I saw that ass-soul patch of hers, I lost interest in a big frickin’ hurry.”

Friday, October 26, 2012


Hysterical Gothic
Hysterical Gothic.  Photoshop inspired by El Capitan.

Just in case you’re wondering about our weekend plans.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Bernadette on the Stairs
Bernadette regards the photographer with a semi-quizzical look.

Hakuna has gone off to the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, there to romp in the fields of catnip and stands of tuna trees with her sister Matata.  And yet, Chez Elisson is not completely catless.  Not yet.

That’s because Bernadette is gracing us with her presence... at least for the time being, while the Mistress of Sarcasm is here for an extended visit.  Next week, when she heads back home to the Northeast, she’ll pack Bernie up and cram her into the car for the two-day drive.

Meanwhile, we get to enjoy the company of this exceptionally sweet kitty.  She is, to be perfectly candid, somewhat reserved except when she is relaxing on a bed.  There, the reserve vanishes and Bernie becomes a cuddly, squishy beast.

We will miss her when she’s gone.  Doubly so.


As Hallowe’en approaches, all the little snot-noses prepare for their annual encounters with Scary Creatures. Ghosts, goblins, and all of that. Of course, zombies are very much in fashion this year, especially around these parts, what with “The Walking Dead” being filmed just south of town. Well, zombies may frighten some people, but to me, they ain’t shit.  There’s stuff out there that’s waaaaay nastier than zombies.

It was fifty years ago this week that I endured the scariest week of my life.

We all go through times when we have to deal with fearful circumstances. We worry about our health, about the fell diagnosis.  We fret when our teenage kids go out at night... and even when they are adults, that nervousness never quite leaves us.  We get paranoid about our jobs, our ability to pay the bills and keep the wolf from the door.  And there’s the bully in the schoolyard, the crazy family down the street.  Don’t forget the nutcase with the clown costume, a garage full of bad oil paintings, and a crawl space full of decomposing middle school kids.

But in October, 1962, I was scared to death... and I wasn’t the only one.  It was the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world’s two great superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, stood toe-to-toe at the brink of nuclear war.

My chief mistake at the time - I was a mere ten-year-old - was that I had read up extensively on nuclear weapons, a subject that had fascinated me with the same fascination a mouse feels as he stares into the eyes of a cobra.  One of the books we had in our extensive home library was a thin volume with a black cover bearing the single word Secret. A comprehensive history of the Manhattan Project, the nuclear coda to World War II, and the subsequent Bikini Island atomic tests, it had been published in the late 1940’s by Westinghouse (if I recall correctly), one of the contractors that had worked on the Project. The slim black book had all kinds of information on nuclear physics (explained clearly in layman’s terms), but most important, it had maps and photographs.  Photographs of Shit Blowing Up.

I made it my business to know what would happen in the event of a nuclear strike on New York, the nearest obvious target.  Things would get ugly pretty fast out on the south shore of Long Island where we lived, some 35 miles east of the city.  Even if we were spared the immediate destructive effects of heat and blast, we were downwind.  Fallout would get us if the blast didn’t.

Since our family hadn’t succumbed to the kind of paranoia that would have had them building a backyard fallout shelter - quite the rage in those days - I envisioned us camping out in the basement for two weeks while the worst of the radioactivity settled down.  We’d have to fill in the window wells with dirt, of course.  I had it all figured out.

This was, of course, all hypothetical.  Fever-dreams of the youthful imagination.  But when the Cuban missile crisis started to unfold, the spectre of nuclear annihilation suddenly seemed all too real.  One night in late October - was it the 26th? - it seemed imminent, as tensions between the superpowers ratcheted up to an unprecedented level.  I remember going to bed that night convinced that the missiles would be flying before dawn.  Scared shitless, I was.

Then, to everyone’s relief, Khrushchev backed down and agreed to remove the USSR’s missiles from Cuba.   Kennedy had secretly agreed to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey and Italy (mostly obsolete pieces of crap, as it turned out) in exchange for the Soviet withdrawal: To the world at large it appeared that the USSR had caved.  But at the time I didn’t care about the back-room deals or the politics.  All I cared about was that I was still alive... along with the 100-200 millions of others who would have likely been killed had things gone pear-shaped.

Had I known that the nearest likely target was a lot closer than New York City, I would have really had a shit-hemorrhage.  Years later, it was revealed that there were several missile bases on Long Island, including one right next door in Amityville. (Yes, that Amityville.) At first, the Amityville base was stocked with conventional Ajax missiles, but in 1963 the nuclear-tipped Hercules Nikes began replacing them.  Which means that we would have been pretty much at ground zero in the event of a massive Soviet attack. Yeef!

When Hallowe’en came along the following week, we were all pretty blasé.  How could ghosts, goblins, and zombies ever scare us after the week we had just been through?

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Houston Steve and his lovely missus Debby just returned from a twelve-day sojourn in China.

They had a wonderful time, as you’d expect, eating Peking duck in Beijing (or Beijing duck in Peking, I can’t recall which), seeing the terra-cotta soldiers of Xian, touring the Forbidden City, and admiring the view from atop the Great Wall.

China has changed a lot in the two decades since I last was there.  Back then, it was a slowly awakening economic giant just beginning to flex its prodigious muscles.  Now, it has a lot more of the trappings of modernity: huge new cities full of shiny buildings, maglev bullet trains, and plenty of cars on the roads.

Virtually everybody under the age of twenty-five speaks English: it’s a compulsory part of every young person’s education.  And, despite the official Communist policies of the country’s rulers, it’s pretty clear that most of the people are dyed-in-the-wool capitalists.  The Chinese have long been the business leaders of Asia, to the point where they are hated in some southeast Asian cultures: the wisest thing the government ever did was to unleash the business culture without making a big announcement about it.  The Commies got to save face, and the country had a chance to start up its mighty economic engines.

I figure that if they got rid of their dopey pictogrammatic writing and replaced it with a phonetic alphabet, and stopped eating with those stupid fucking sticks, nothing could stop them.

But despite the widespread (and growing) use of English there, occasionally, Houston Steve would run into a real head-scratcher.  F’rinstance, here’s a brass plaque with a typically inscrutable inscription:

China Placard
“Close to the distance near civilization.” Now, WTF does that mean, exactly?

“Close to the distance near civilization.”  Is this some sort of Confucian riddle?  Some wisdom from Mao’s little red book?  What could it mean?

It might be helpful to put it in context.  The plaque sits just above a urinal in a well-appointed lavatory.

Chinese Urinal
Our little brass plaque in context: It sits above a urinal.

Perhaps it is a badly translated attempt to say, “This is a nice place - stand close enough so that you don’t piss all over the floor.”  Or as our friend Gary says, “Stand closer - it ain’t as long as you think.”

Of course, if you have any other ideas, feel free to leave ’em in the Comments.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Nasi Goreng
Nasi goreng: Indonesian fried rice with egg, fried shallots, and scallions. Also plenty hot chile pepper. This stuff beats Cantonese fried rice like a rented mule.

One of the side effects of our protein-and vegetable-laden eating habits is that we end up with a pile of leftover rice whenever we eat Chinese food.

It matters not whether we’re eating out or getting carry-out. There’s always far more rice than we ever plan to consume... solid evidence that neither of us is Asian. (Our lack of the Epicanthic Fold is another dead giveaway.)

I have no compunction about tossing out the excess rice. It may be offensive to suggest that the main staff of life in many cultures around the world is cheap, minimally nutritive filler, but, well, there you are. Rice, while a good, inexpensive source of calories and (some) vitamins, is not particularly rich in protein or fiber. Moreover, it packs a glycemic wallop... and these days, it’s even spiked with a few ppm of arsenic. So my usual solution is to just throw it out.

Nutritive minefield that it may be, however, I still hate to simply eighty-six perfectly good food. Which leaves me with the challenge of what to do with ricey leftovers.

Two alternatives stand out from the pack: rice pudding and fried rice.

Rice pudding - a long-time favorite of Eli, hizzownself - is a great way to make use of excess cooked rice. Some milk or cream, some sugar, a few eggs, and a few carefully administered dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or cardamom, and you’ve got a dessert worthy of a king - a king with a fat ass.  Kheer, Indian-style rice pudding with a pronounced cardamom flavor, is one of my favorite variations on the theme.

But once I start eating rice pudding, it’s kinda hard to stop... which is why I rarely make it.

What about fried rice? Who doesn’t love delicious, yummy fried rice, with its little nuggets of egg, veggies, and meatstuffs? I have plenty of childhood memories of platters laden with fried rice, sometimes buried in lobster sauce. Good Gawd, was that stuff tasty.

A few months ago, Cook’s Illustrated published a recipe for nasi goreng - Indonesian-style fried rice - a somewhat spicier and considerably more interesting version of fried rice than the familiar Cantonese stuff we all grew up with.. It’s a dish I developed a taste for decades ago when I used to travel around in that part of the world, but it’s not for everybody.  One of my colleagues from the old Corporate Salt Mine days, a Louisiana Cajun of the first water, tried it one time and, to my surprise, did not care for it.  How could this be? I wondered.  Rice, some piquant chile heat... what was there for a Baton Rouge boy not to love?  But he dubbed it “Nasty Goreng,” and the name stuck.

That’s it! I’ll make a pile of Nasty Goreng out of this leftover rice!

I was already one step ahead, for unlike the chefs in America’s Test Kitchen, I didn’t need to find substitutes for some of the more difficult-to-find ingredients.  Hell, I had ’em in the pantry!  Kecap manis? Sambal udang bercili? The dreaded, hyper-pungent belacan? I had ’em all.  Nasty Goreng it would be.

The only problem was the belacan (pronounced “blachang”), which is an evil little brick of concentrated fermented shrimp paste.  It’s an ingredient that packs an umami wallop, kind of like anchovy paste on steroids.  And like anchovy paste, a little goes a long way.

Unlike anchovy paste, however, belacan is incredibly pungent: It is to aroma what plutonium is to radioactivity.  I keep mine in the pantry, wrapped up in three layers of plastic, plus one of heavy waxed paper, plus a jacket of aluminum foil.  The simple act of taking it out of its layers of wrappings can fill the house with a pong that She Who Must Be Obeyed describes as “unwashed twat.”  And that is being kind.

Before you use belacan, you have to toast it, which generates even more fragrance.  You slice off a thin sliver from that dark brown brick, wrap it in foil, and hold it over an open flame for two minutes.  You can then add it to the sambal udang bercili before tossing the whole mess in a hot, well-oiled pan with the rice.  I was smart enough to toast the belacan outdoors this time, which (I hoped) would help keep the aroma in the house down to manageable levels.

I’m not sure how much the outdoor toasting helped, because I assembled the rest of the dish indoors on Darth Stover.  Perhaps it did.  A little, anyway.  And the results were well worth it, because the finished dish (shown above with a slice of lime) was ridiculously yummy - not nasty at all.  Even the Mistress of Sarcasm pronounced it delicious, devouring most of it over the course of the next two days.  Which is about how long it took for the house to air out.

Leftover nasi goreng (left over from a dish made from leftovers!) makes a dandy omelette filling, too.  Now all I have to do is run ten miles to work off all those carbs...

Friday, October 19, 2012


On the way home from the Animal Companion Funerary Services Provider this morning, I decided to take advantage of geography and make a brief Provisioning Stop at the Buford Highway Farmers Market.

I had been there once before, about eleven months ago.  I would stop by more often, but it’s a bit of a schlep compared to my normal grocery runs, for which I have a plethora of reasonable options within a two-mile radius. But those reasonable options - Publix, Kroger, Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Paycheck Foods - seem shriveled and boring when compared against the Buford Highway Farmers Market.  The local foodshoppes all offer nice boring Suburbanite Fodder with a few bits of exotica thrown in, but a certain sameness tends to creep in... even if Trader Joe’s now sells a Biscoff spread knockoff that they call “cookie butter.”  (Bastards.)

First thing you hit when you go in to the BHFM is the produce... and it is amazing.  There’s all the familiar stuff you’d find at, say, the local Kroger, and then there’s all the other shit that you’ve either never heard of or have just read an article about in some bizarre foodie magazine.  Greenery of every description for every cuisine.  Arcane mesoamerican vegetables with unpronounceable names like “xoxocacatepl.”  Huge king oyster mushrooms that look like they could double as props in a porn flick. 

Continue toward the back, past the fresh and dried ghost peppers (hot as ten bastards!) and the array of spices, unto the displays of Mexican pastries and sodas.  Bins full of chicharrones - fried pork skins, the Mexican equivalent of gribenes - in seven different flavors and textures.  And then you hit the meat department.

Pork, beef, chicken - they’ve got it all, and they’ve got the nasty bits we never seem to see in White-Bread Land.  Want a carboy of chitterlings?  An entire omasum (number three of the four stomachs of a steer), AKA tripe?  Chicken livers?  Chicken spleens?  Pork hearts?  Beef pizzle?  A bucket of blood?  Lamb kidneys?  Goat?  You can find all of that stuff here, everything from the normal to the Downright Scary and/or Revolting.

Fish?  They gots fish, too, from monster Bangladeshi prawns to entire buffalo carp to humongous octopus tentacles.  And huge fish heads, in case someone wants to make a Singaporean fish head curry.  Eat ’em up, yum!

There’s an eclectic assortment of ethnic foods of every stripe, from every continent save Antarctica.  The Americas are well represented, as are virtually all the nations of Asia.  If you want interesting goodies from Japan, Korea, the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Thailand, et cetera, you’ll find ’em here.  There’s actually a Korean deli, too - a great place if you want to be gettin’ jjigae with it.

The Europeans are also there - particularly the Russians - but you’ll find tubes of Finnish mustard and packets of various Dutch treats ranging from kroepoek (the tasty Indonesian shrimp crisps) to stroopwafels (little waffles with caramel syrup filling).  Baked goods.  Cheeses.  Smoked fish.  Caviar.  And if that’s not enough, international cosmetics.

So, you might ask, just what it was you purchased, Mister Food-Adventure?

Not a whole lot - just a few odds and ends.  A packet of Balinese-style kroepoek to go with the nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) I was planning to cook later that day.  A bag of frozen dumpings filled with kimchi, the fiery Korean sauerkraut.  Some chive blossoms.  Some mei lan (Chinese broccoli).  A small wheel of Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill cheese, one of SWMBO’s favorites, and available at the BHFM for about half the price charged by the local Whole Paycheck Foods.  A chunk of Sweet Grass’s blue cheese, a happy discovery.  A package of cut-up chicken legs and thighs... and a pile of chicken feet.

It’s nigh impossible to find chicken feet at the local White-Bread Provisioners, but those bad boys are an essential ingredient in a fine chicken stock, loaded with connective tissue as they are.  A long simmer breaks all of that collagen down to gelatin, which imparts a delicious, rich mouthfeel to the stock.  Perfect as a base for soup, sauces, or a myriad of other applications.  And the best part?

It scared the piss out of the Mistress of Sarcasm and the Missus when they came home to find this on the stove:

Chicken Feet
Good Gawd!  They look like little hands in there!

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Today I had the sad task of going to the Animal Companion Funerary Services Provider in order to collect the ashy remains of our beloved Hakuna.

There’s a school of thought that, when it comes to the final arrangements for the family pet, favors the Backyard Burial.  It’s a perfectly reasonable approach, one that also works for certain unpleasant relatives and business associates... but in the latter instances, it leaves one open to certain, ahhh, issues.  But for some reason, we in Clan Elisson have fallen into the practice of cremating our furry Loved Ones  after they have departed for the Rainbow Bridge.

I will confess that, in a strange way, it is comforting to know that there is still some physical evidence of our kitties’ existence within easy reach: Now Hakuna (or at least her Powdery Remnant) shares shelf space at Chez Elisson with her predeceased sister Matata and her sometimes-rival, the Mistress’s kitty Neighbor.  And since cats are beyond the purview of human religious practice, I feel no compunction against the practice of cremation, which, while eminently practical, falls outside of the norms of my faith community - for people, anyway.  (Those norms aside, certain twentieth century historical events make the cremation of Jewish decedents an especially odious practice.)

When I drove over to Brookhaven, I was surprised to find that the unprepossessing little white building that had been the home of the ACFSP three years ago - the last time we had had need of their services - was nowhere to be seen.  In its place was a huge, newly constructed three-story brick tower.  But the sign out front told me that I was in the right place.

There was a beautifully designed lobby, done up with brick and glass in warm, soothing earth hues.  The receptionist and other personnel spoke in hushed, reverential tones.  There was a showroom with an assortment of doggy- and kitty-caskets on display, along with a vast assortment of urns, jars, and other keepsakey items.  And this was not cheesy merch, oh, no.  All of it spoke of quiet elegance, dignity, and respect.

Between the lobby and the showroom there was a small chapel with padded seats and a small raised platform in front, clearly intended to provide a place for Fluffy’s bier during her funeral service.  I could only wonder what sort of religious elements people would bring in to such a service.  Would they offer a full requiem mass?  Recite the Meowner’s Kattish?

This was merely ground level. What was on the two upper levels?  I could only imagine. 

I resisted my usual impulse to view the place through the lens of Snark, despite my having written this post.  After all, these people were providing us with a service, albeit a non-essential one.  (The Backyard Option, after all, is always open.)  Yet that service had proven comforting to us in the past and was indeed comforting this time as well.

But, my Gawd - the money!  These new digs were, dare I say, a tad on the opulent side.  An Edifice for Rex, if you will.  And there is certainly nothing wrong with that, for it says to me that the economy, as much as people are constantly griping about it, cannot possibly be all that bad.

As I have observed before, when a nation’s economy is such that people have the kind of disposable income that will buy a casket and perpetual care for Phideaux, they ain’t hurting too badly.  If we, collectively, are wealthy enough so that entire supermarket aisles are devoted to dog and cat food, we really cannot call our situation dire.

Dire is when you eat the dogs, not feed them.

Update: Hakuna’s valedictory trip on the Friday Ark’s 404th voyage is here at the Modulator.

Update 2: Carnival of the Cats #449, with Hakuna’s farewell appearance, is up at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

Monday, October 15, 2012


There’s an old Bobby Slayton routine in which Bobby describes going down to the DMV, where he sees a fellow working the cash register, someone “from one of those dickhead Third World countries - Pakistan, India, Nicaragua...” who is wearing a name tag that says “Kashir.”  So Bobby says to the guy, “Isn’t that amazing?  Your name is Kashir, and that is what you do!”

As he puts it in his routine, “Twenty years of stand-up comedy, and this is the funniest thing I’ve ever said.”  The catch being, of course, that “...the son of a bitch doesn’t get it!

A few weeks ago when I had occasion to hire the services of one of Cobb County’s finest, I found myself in a kinda-sorta similar situation.  This fellow was no immigrant - well, he was from New Jersey originally - but what amused me no end was that his name was Leo.

It’s an especially appropriate name for a shamus, since LEO is popular shorthand for Law Enforcement Officer.  So, of course I had to channel the spirit of Bobby Slayton and say to him: “Isn’t that amazing?  Your name is Leo, and that is what you do!”

At least this guy got the joke.

In somewhat unrelated  - yet strangely connected - news, Senator Arlen Specter passed away this past Sunday at the age of 82.  Which, presumably, gives Saint Peter (or whoever it is that checks tickets at the Pearly Gates) the chance to say, “Isn’t that amazing?  Your name is Specter, and that is what you are!”


Hakuna. April 28, 1995 - October 14, 2012.

Barukh Dayan Emet: Blessèd be the True Judge.


Whene’er I go to drop a deuce
I find that there is no damn use
To try to guess its size.

I’ll hear a subtle, silent “plip,”
Yet find a monster turd has slipped
Right out, to my surprise.

Or push and grunt and heave and strain
As though to hemorrhage my brain,
A-bugging out my eyes,

To find results that disappoint:
A loaf as big’s my knuckle-joint.
“’Tis bupkes!” then I cries.

The effort’s disproportionate
When what you feel ain’t what you get:
Know this, and you’ll be wise.


George settled in, briefcase tucked beneath his seat. A double ouzo would be the perfect start to the long overnight flight to Athens.

Reaching for the call button, he adjusted the vent to send a cool stream of air wafting across his face. Almost immediately, an adjacent nozzle began to spew water. What the hell?

To his astonishment, a sudden cascade of dirt showered down upon him. Frantic, he unbuckled himself and stood, whereupon a two-foot tongue of flame shot from the armrest, searing off his eyebrows.

Crap, George thought. This’ll be the last time I fly Greek Elemental Airways.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Actually, I did not have an Italian grandmother: there were no Nonnas in the Elisson clan.  But if I had had a Nonna, she would have said, “No stick-a da formaggio in da pesci.”  Or words to that effect.

Old-school Italian cooks - grandmothers included - will tell you that adding cheese to a fish-based dish is proibito. Verboten. It just ain’t done.  When the ill-informed waiter asks if you’d like some grated Parmigiano Reggiano on thet steaming dish of linguini alla vongole, you’re supposed to tell him to fuck off politely decline.

[For some reason, it’s OK to decorate a cheese pizza with anchovies, but that is apparently the exception that proves the rule.  Plus, you’re adding fish to cheese, not cheese to fish.  What the hell do I know, anyway?]

Why the prohibition?  According to a post at theKitchn,
Fish should taste of the sea, and should be consumed as close to the catch as possible to ensure this. And it should be served simply, for the same reason. The rich, salty flavors of cheese can too easily overwhelm the flavors of fish, forcing a contrast not only in intensity of flavor, but also a sacrifice of the integrity of both ingredients. Grated cheese over a fish pasta is considered either extraneous, excessive, or demeaning. 
There are other explanations, for which see the whole post... but the point is, in Italian cookery at least, fish and cheese are usually not combined in a single dish.

Since I am not Italian, however, I can go and trash that old-school rule.

Several months ago, She Who Must Be Obeyed found a fish recipe that worked exceptionally well for mild, white-fleshed fish.  We’ve used it since then on everything from cod to halibut to Dover sole, and the results have never failed to please... despite the fact that the dish includes both fish and a goodly dose of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  And it’s easy to make. Lookee:

Baked Dover Sole with Parmesan-Sriracha Sauce
Baked Dover Sole with Parmesan-Sriracha Sauce. Fish with cheese, yet tasty good.

Baked Dover Sole with Parmesan-Sriracha Sauce

Stick your fish fillets in a pan (schpritz it with a little vegetable oil or olive oil to keep the fish from sticking) and sprinkle with a little kosher salt.  If you care to, throw on some freshly ground black pepper... who’s gonna stop you?  Bake at 325°F for about 10-15 minutes or so, depending on the thickness of your fillets.  You want the fish just cooked through, not dried out unto the point of becoming Fish-Jerky.

While the fish is baking, make the Cheesy Sauce.  Take two tablespoons each of softened butter and mayonnaise and combine in a bowl.  Add a goodly squirt of sriracha sauce - how much you put in, of course, being dictated by how spicy you want the dish.  A teaspoon will give a delicate piquancy, while a full tablespoon will generate a noticeable burn.  Add aboutcup of finely grated Parmesan cheese (use real Parmigiano Reggiano if you want the best flavor) and combine well.

When the fish is just about done, take it out of the oven and crank up your broiler.  Cover each fillet with a liberal dose of cheese-butter-mayo mixture and then shove your pan under the broiler for about two minutes, or until the cheese mixture is bubbling hot and beginning to brown.  Now take it out - you’re done!

Never has a “No” to Nonna’s no-no tasted so noticeably nummy!

[Posted at 0809 hours, 10/11/12.  Hoo-HAH!]

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Today was a Day of Significance. A minor milestone. Today marks the first time I used my senior discount at Publix, the local superdupermarket.

Saved me a whole $2.90, it did - five per centum of my total purchase.  Whoop-de-fucking-do.

The sweet thing? All I had to do to earn it was to survive unto the age of sixty.  I guess it’s one of the little perks that comes with being, ahhh, a little bit closer to death.

The not-so-sweet thing? Damned cashier didn’t even ask for proof of age. It was Wednesday - Old-People-Buying-Food-Day - and so she just assumed.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Our Holiday Season is over after its usual 22-day run.

Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year.
Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement.
Sukkot - the week-long Feast of Tabernacles.
Shemini Atzeret - the day after Sukkot, a holiday in its own right.
Simchat Torah - completing the annual cycle of Torah readings and beginning anew, moving seamlessly from the death of Moses atop Mount Nebo to the story of Creation.

That’s five holidays in just a little over three weeks.  It’s a tad exhausting.  Combine that with visits from the makhetunim (in-laws), my brother (the Other Elisson!), Elder Daughter, and the Mistress of Sarcasm (who will be here for the remainder of the month), plus my sixtieth birthday, and it has been a very busy few weeks.

The Girls 100412
The Mistress of Sarcasm and Elder Daughter.  We actually had the two of them together in one place for an all-too-brief three days.

SWMBO and her Mommy, September 2012
SWMBO and her most estimable mommy.

Now life can settle down to a semblance of normalcy... until our next adventure, that is!

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Six-Strand Challah
This week’s loaf of challah: a six-stranded braid.  Looks a bit like a sea of breadly sand dunes.

There is a certain mystical quality to a loaf of challah made by braiding six strands.  Traditionalists will tell you that each strand represents one of the six days of Creation: the resulting bread-loaf is served up at the onset of the seventh day, the Sabbath on which the Eternal One Himself loafed.

In this particular instance, I could tell you that each strand represents a decade of my life.

Symbolism aside, I used a six-strand braid for the sheer challenge of it, as well as for the aesthetics.  I am pleased to report that I was able to put this bad boy together without having to stop halfway through and reroll the strands... a first.

Was it any good?  Why, yes.  Yes, it was.  Not one crumb survived the evening.

Friday, October 5, 2012


The iPod d’Elisson
The old-school iPod d’Elisson.

It has been a little over four months since I last posted a Friday Random Ten, mainly because (1) I am lazy, and (2) I suspect most of my Esteemed Readers are thoroughly sick of ’em. After a few hundred iterations, after all, they all begin to look like the Same Old Shit.

Therefore, this time - for today only - I’m changing the rules.  I’ll post a random list of songs as generated by my iPod - the Little White Choon Box - but only songs from the 1960’s.  (Since I entered my sixties yesterday, what better excuse than to relive the Sixties?)

So let’s sit back, grab a set of headphones (for the ’60’s, I suppose they should be potheadphones) and let’s see what the Old Mr. iPod is barfing out today.
  1. Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars) - Stan Getz & João Gilberto (1964)

  2. Not to Touch the Earth - The Doors (1967)

  3. Repent Walpurgis - Procol Harum (1967)

  4. E Luxo So - Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd (1962)

  5. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles (1967)

  6. I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles (1963)

  7. Canyons of Your Mind - Bonzo Dog Band (1969)

  8. If I Needed Someone - The Beatles (1965)

  9. Legend of a Mind - Moody Blues (1968)

  10. Kol Nidre - The Electric Prunes (1968)

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Elisson, vintage 1955
The young Elisson, circa 1955. Not quite so much water under the bridge at that point in my life.

There’s a traditional birthday greeting - bis hundert-tzvantzik yoor in Yiddish, עד מאה ועשרים (ad meah v’esrim) in Hebrew - may you live to be 120.  That would mean I’m now halfway there, in the best of all possible worlds.  (I like to modify it and throw in an extra day - ad meah v’esrim v’yom - because if you croak on your birthday, it spoils the party.)

That’s right, Esteemed Readers: When this post goes up, I will have been on this planet long enough to have circled the Sun sixty times.  That’s Nerd-Speak (or Elisson-Speak, which is pretty much the same thing) for “It’s my sixtieth frickin’ birthday.”

That means I’m old enough to remember LP records, rotary-dial telephones, black-and-white television sets with rabbit-ear antennas, computers as big as a building, and Instamatic cameras.  I knew Miles before he was a block... and now I can get the senior discount at Publix on Wednesdays.

It’s tempting to dismiss it all with one of my pithy graveyard humor one-liners: “Beats being dead.”  At least, I think it does... don’t we all?

Given, however, that this is only the sixth time that I have observed a double-digit birthday with the second digit being 0, I suppose I should be more reflective.  Introspective.  (That is, assuming there’s any introspection left after the Jewish High Holidays, which are kinda like Self-Examination Central.)

I have been the recipient of much good fortune, much of it (probably) undeserved.  I was blessed with two wonderful parents in a stable, happy, economically comfortable household, a household I shared with a brother who to this day is a model of warmth, consideration, and kindness... and a conscientious work ethic to boot.  I received an excellent public school education - say what you will about New York-area suburbia, but they do schools right - and was privileged to be able to attend a fine university.  I had a lengthy career in the petrochemical business (or “bidnis,” as we would say in Texas) and am now exercising my efforts and imagination in other areas more suited to my creative side.  I have had the chance to travel, both in the course of business and on my own hook, and see a bit of the world beyond my own back door.  And, speaking of back doors, there have been several: beyond the two houses I lived in as a child and young man, the Missus and I have owned seven different homes over the years in four different states.

Ahh, the Missus.  She Who Must Be Obeyed, or so I call her on this Online Journal.  She has put up with me for over 36 years now, 35 of which have been in the blessèd state of Holy Matrimony - 58% of my life, by coarse reckoning.  (With me, any form of reckoning is, necessarily, coarse.)  And she has provided me - nay, we have provided each other - two daughters, of which I could not be prouder and with which I could not be happier.  The three of them, taken together, constitute the greatest blessings I could ask for... but there’s more.

I have my health. Right now, anyway.  Of course, we all know that such things can change at any moment... keyn ayin hora.  And I have friends.  Good ones.  You know who you are.

And I have Adult Beverages.  I plan to consume a few wee drams by way of celebration, ya know.

So: Having lived through the Nineteen-Sixties, now I get to try and live through my own Sixties.  I’m a Sexy-Genarian now!  Hoo-hah!

Monday, October 1, 2012


Ol’ Death is highly overrated
Tho it’s the fate to which we’re fated.
That dude with the scythe and the dark grey cloak
Will come for us all, and it ain’t no joke.

The Cosmic Wheel will creak and turn
While the sun and stars continue to burn
And eventually, we’ll all be found
A-sleeping underneath the ground.

We’ll feel no itch; no need to scratch
As we lie in our rustic “Bury Patch.”
Meantime, I’m happy still to be
Not staring at the pointy end of the tee.

[Inspired by Grace Davis, who has pointed out noted Scottish psychologist R. D. Laing’s observation that “Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent.”]


Brando, the newest member of Morris William’s household.

No, don’t panic: Hakuna is still alive and well... for now, anyway.  We’re not trying to replace her any time soon, especially while she still is here to defend her turf.  (She’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that while Bernadette, the Mistress of Sarcasm’s kitty, settles in for an extended visit.)

This is Brando, Morris William’s new cat.  He’s a ragdoll, which mean he will grow to an immense size - circa 20 pounds - and yet be as pliant and cuddly as a furry beanbag. Hell, just looking at him, don’tcha want to just reach right through your screen and grab him?

The missus is beside herself with Cat-Envy.  Oy.


Today at the little luncheon following morning services - it’s Sukkot, so we get the full-blown holiday treatment today and tomorrow - I noticed something new.

The usual spread on a day like today would be a pile of bagels and a few assorted flavors of cream cheese spread. Nothing special, in other words. But today there was a veritabobble feast set out: bagels; bagel chips; the normal assortment of cream cheeses; tuna and egg salads; chunks of gefilte fish along with beet horseradish; a nice green salad; sliced tomatoes, cukes, onions, and bell peppers; and various pastries.

Still well within the bounds of normality, mind you... but certainly on the nice side.

But what got my attention was the pastries.

I try to ignore ’em most of the time, and most of the time I’m successful. The luncheons are catered by the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium, and while the bagels and fish are invariably top-shelf, the other baked goods - rugelach, mandelbrot, brownies, cookies, et alia - are completely forgettable. And that is fine with me. Who needs the temptation?

Today, however, things were different. There were delicate little slices of flaky apple strudel with raisins that melted in the mouth. There was rugelach, buttery and rich, that may have been the best I’ve ever tasted. There were cookies, too - but why screw around with cookies when there were all these other goodies?

I was at a complete loss to explain it, but the rabbi cleared up the mystery when he asked what I thought of the Emporium’s having hired a new baker. Aha!

Almond Horns
Me so Almond Horny!  Fresh-baked almond horns await the eager grasp of happy customers.

That would explain the sudden appearance of almond horns at the Emporium. I had seen a tray of those deadly little fellows last time I breakfasted there, and it had caused me no end of anguish at the time. I dearly loves me an almond horn, with its sweet taste of marzipan and dollop of chocolate glaze... but getting into the habit of eating almond horns is a sure route to Fat-Ass Country.

So now the Emporium has taken their pastry game to a new level. They’ve raised the stakes, as it were, by bringing in the Special (Bakey) Forces.

Oy. Just what we needed.


Lulav and Etrog
The lulav (palm branch with myrtle and willow) and etrog (citron), symbols of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Today is the first day of the Jewish festival of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.

No, tabernacles are not those crustaceans that grow on the hulls of old ships.  They are, rather, the little booths that observant Jews - the kind that don’t write blogposts on holidays - construct in their back yards during this festival, there to partake in meals and even, weather permitting, camp out.

Sukkot is also known as z’man simchateinu, the season of our joy.  It makes sense: in the Old Days, the broiling hot summer would be over, the fall harvest would be in, and it would be time to traipse off to Jerusalem for eight days of barbecue.

For me, Sukkot is a bittersweet holiday.  It’s the harbinger of the cooler autumn weather and the changing leaves, and the coda to the challenging moral introspection of the High Holidays.  The eve of the holiday is the yahrzeit of my beloved Uncle Phil, who passed away two years ago.  And the first day of Sukkot is my birthday... at least, according to the Hebrew calendar.

Which means, by Jewish reckoning, I am sixty years old today.  Hoo-hah!

And, since my Hebrew name is Simcha, what better time to be born than on the kickoff day of z’man simchateinu?

(As far as the civil calendar is concerned, I still have three days to go.  Might as well enjoy the last waning moments of fifty-hood while I can, eh?)