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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Red Rock Canyon

Today is the last day of 2013.

It is the anniversary of the day - thirty-eight (count ’em!) years ago - on which I met the woman who would eventually become my one and only Missus... a story that, of course, merits its own post.  

Assisted by the relentless media disgorgement of “Best Of,” “Worst Of,” and “Who’s Dead Now?” lists, I tend to become reflective during the final days of each calendar year. Even better: As a Red Sea Pedestrian, I get to have two periods of maudlin navel-gazing every year - one for the Gregorian year and one for the Hebrew year.

It is a natural thing to do, I suppose, as we turn the leaf of the Calendar-Book. We reflect on what’s past while we look forward with eagerness (and no small degree of trepidation) to what is to come.

We had our share of heartache in the past twelvemonth. In early December, She Who Must Be Obeyed lost her stepfather, a sometimes sweet and often difficult man who had been part of our lives for over three decades. Our sweet little Ragdoll kitten Levon died suddenly and unexpectedly in June, an emotional body blow that is gradually healing thanks to the fuzzy ministrations of Stella, the newest feline member of the Elisson clan. Add to these personal losses the backdrop of other bereavements our family and friends have had to endure, and the passing of so many familiar faces of popular culture... suffice it to say that these days, I don’t ask a whole lot of questions about for whom the bell tolls, lest I get an answer I’m not gonna like. (I also don’t buy green bananas.)

Happy moments? Sure! This was the year, after all, that SWMBO celebrated a Significant Birthday (gentlemanly decorum forbids my being specific about the number) with a week-long debauch vacation in Las Vegas with Elder Daughter and a horde of our good friends, followed by an unrelenting stream of parties and other pleasant diversions. And we had the pleasure of the company of both our daughters at the one and only Thanksgivvukah to take place in our lifetimes.

As in years past, we have enjoyed the comfort of family and the warmth of friendship. We have dealt with the pleasant and unpleasant, both disappointments and happy surprises. We have managed to ride this blue marble for yet another trip around the Sun. And, in so many ways both great and small, we are blessed.

May 2014 bring you, Esteemed Reader, the good things life has to offer - health, happiness, love, safety, and success - without limit; and should any less-than-good things cross your path, may they be infrequent and insignificant. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013


Another day, another despotic hellhole, thought Quinn.

Despite his cool outward demeanor, he was nervous. The San Margol secret police had yanked him out of his hotel in the dead of night. It was obvious that certain government officials were unhappy with the last story he had filed. Now they were sweating him. Quinn didn’t think they’d stoop to torture, but who knew?

His inquisitor was delivering a lecture.

“If you want to dine on pressed duck, no problem. French press coffee, also no problem. We have freedom of the press here in San Margol... except for the printing press.”

Saturday, December 28, 2013


When the Missus and I decided to downsize, we bought a clownhouse in the city.

That’s right: clownhouse. Like a townhouse, but with clowns.

They issue you a rubber nose that also functions as your key. Squeeze once, the door opens. Squeeze twice to lock. Honk! Honk!

Closet racks are designed to accommodate grotesquely oversized shoes, of course. And the garage is big enough to hold two Volkswagens... along with the fifty-eight clowns that ride in them.

We loved the finished bozoment, but what finally sold us was the house of worship next door, presided over by Charlie the Chaplain.

[This is the 1000th post at Lost in the Cheese Aisle. Whoop-de-do!]

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Hitchcock Stella
Quoth Stella: “I would rather be well composed than well composted any day.”

I call this particular composition “Cat Reclining on Antique Hitchcock Chair.” But “Kittizen Cane” works, too.

This could be a still life save for Stella’s twitching, switching tail.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


 photo Eliyahuha-Navi.jpg
No, this is not who you think it is. It’s Eliyahu ha-Navi (Elijah the Prophet), who celebrates Passover every year by passing over all the world’s children in his magical sleigh-like chariot.

Tomorrow is Christmas, or as we Red Sea Pedestrians call it, “Wednesday.” We will celebrate the day in the tradition of our ancestors, by going out for Chinese food and seeing a movie.

In days past, these were activities that, on Christmas, would be practiced almost exclusively by us Jews. Lately, though, there has been a disturbing tendency on the part of the Christian population to indulge in these selfsame amusements.

I suppose the siren songs of the silver screen and of the steaming tureen of hot and sour soup cannot be denied, even as the freshly unwrapped presents litter the floor beneath the Christmas tree... but it does make it harder to secure restaurant reservations and theatre tickets. Whatever happened to staying home with the family and drinking yourself silly with eggnog and wassail?

Regardless of how you decide to spend the day, let me wish a healthy, peaceful, and most Merry Christmas to our Christian friends. (And save us a seat at the movies, OK?)

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Old Grand-Dad
Houston Steve and two old grand-dads. [Click to embiggen.]

This photograph amuses me no end.

Houston Steve is pictured here with a bottle of Old Grand-Dad bourbon that is old enough to be a Grand-Dad itself, having been distilled in 1959 and bottled in 1964... just in time for our friend Sid’s Bar Mitzvah, the occasion for which the bottle was purchased.

Alas, this particular Old Grand-Dad is now expired, having gone where all of our spirituous brethren eventually go. I am proud to say that I had a hand in hastening his demise... as did both Houston Steve and Sid.

But there’s another Old Grand-Dad in the photo, this one being Houston Steve’s very own grandpa. He’s the one wearing the Santa Claus suit in the picture displayed on the iPhone... and standing next to him is none other than the young (and beardless) Houston Steve.

As I said, this photograph amuses me no end.

Friday, December 20, 2013


“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” - Captain Renault, Casablanca

Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Robertson clan of Duck Dynasty fame, has been suspended from the show indefinitely by A&E based on comments he made in an interview with Drew Magary which was published in GQ.com. Comments like this:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men... Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers - they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Robertson and family hail from outside Monroe, Louisiana, where the Missus, Elder Daughter, the Mistress of Sarcasm and I recently spent the night enroute back home from Texas. I was a frequent visitor to Monroe back in the days when I was employed by the Great Corporate Salt Mine, and I can tell you without much equivocation that it is not a bastion of, ahhh, progressive politics.  On the contrary, it is populated by a whole lot of people with decidedly conservative views. That Phil Robertson should speak of gays in the same breath as sheep-shtuppers and drunkards is about as surprising (to me, anyway) as the notion that the sun might rise in the east.

These views cannot have been a secret to A&E... but I suppose the issue is that Phil dropped them into an interview where they cannot be conveniently edited out, as they would no doubt have been had he voiced them during the shooting of a Duck Dynasty episode. It is a bit disingenuous for a television network to take a family of rednecks (albeit rednecks with more money than Gawd) and trot them out in front of the American public in the context of a reality show and expect people to believe they are something other than what they are.

Me, I’m not a big fan of shows like Duck Dynasty and Honey Boo-Boo. With the former, you can at least pretend you give a crap about the Robertson family - who have managed to become very successful entrepreneurs - but both smack of the same cringeworthy “Let’s make fun of these Country People” mentality. OK, Honey Boo-Boo and her family may indeed be worthy of ridicule, but still, there’s something patronizing about these Redneck Reality Shows that sticks in my craw.

Look, Phil is entitled to his views on religion and sin, and he is free to speak them at will despite the fact that I disagree with most of ’em. (The Bible that condemns male homosexuality as an “abomination” likewise considers the eating of swine’s flesh an abomination, yet I don’t see these folks rushing to avoid their bacon or country ham. Just sayin’.) At the same time, the good folks at A&E are free to fire Phil at their whim if they feel that his expressing those views might negatively affect their business interests: It’s their call. But they’re the ones who put Phil and his family on the Teevee Pedestal to begin with - teed them up, so to speak- so a little more forbearance on their part wouldn’t have been out of place.

But I do have a Modest Proposal.

I think somebody should create a new reality show featuring an entrepreneurial family - one that has made its fortune in the Marital Aids industry. You could call it Dick Dynasty.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013


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, the Word of the Day:

peemuffin [pee-muf-fin] (n) - The solid mass resulting from combining cat urine and clumping litter.

“I just cleaned out the cat box this afternoon... Good Gawd, there must have been twenty pounds of peemuffins in there amongst the turds. Yecch!”


Twelve Mile Limit
The Twelve Mile Limit cocktail.

I’m always looking for cocktail recipes that will allow me to use my stash of homemade grenadine syrup. The venerable Jack Rose cocktail, not to mention the somewhat more obscure Monkey Gland and Have a Heart, fit neatly into that category... and I was pleased to have found a recipe for yet another grenadine-fueled drink in my weekly e-mail from Serious Eats.

Presented for your delectation, the Twelve Mile Limit - a concoction of rum, brandy, rye whiskey, and grenadine that will scramble your brains like an egg if you get careless and have more than one. It is, despite its rosy color, not a Girly Drink, especially if you make it (as I do) with Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Fans of Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey - Stephen Maturin novels will be happy to know that Houston Steve and I have continued our tradition of hosting a dinner in the style of an early nineteenth century Captain’s Table. Our latest effort began this Saturday just past, at the customary eight bells of the afternoon watch... four o’clock post meridiem to you landlubbers.

All of the usual Foodly Suspects were in attendance: the Roast Beef of Olde England with individual Yorkshire puddings, the roast goose with giblet gravy, the Toasted Cheese, and the Christmas Pudding, the latter having been flambéed in brandy and doused with warm custard sauce. In addition, there was gravlax and caviar served upon blini, those tasty little buckwheat pancakes (OK, not especially British), accompanied by my homemade akvavit (also not especially British). And for the pièce de resistance, Eric had prepared a sticky toffee pudding... a classic dessert completely in keeping with the historical tone of the evening.

Of course, Jack Aubrey and his particular friend Dr. Stephen Maturin would not consider a dinner worthy of the name unless it was accompanied by prodigious amounts of wine, especially claret during the meal and sherry with the afters. And wine we had a-plenty:

2010 Château Saint-Sulpice Bordeaux Rouge
2010 Scala Dei Negre Priorat
2005 Opus One
1999 Château de Lescours Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Taylor Fladgate 20-year-old tawny Porto

Priorat?  What might that be? many of my Esteemed Readers may ask. It is, in fact, a Catalan wine, the very first wine mentioned in O’Brian’s Master and Commander:
“Allow me to fill your glass,” said Jack, with the utmost benevolence. “This is rather better than our ordinary, I believe?”

“Better, dear joy, and very, very much stronger - a healthy, roborative beverage,” said Stephen Maturin. “ ’Tis a neat Priorato. Priorato, from behind Tarragona.”
Strong, indeed: at 14.5% ABV, this stuff had the alcoholic kick of a red Zinfandel, and plenty of body to spare. Completely appropriate as well, given Dr. Maturin’s combined Irish and Catalan ancestry. The one we had was produced at Scala Dei, a winery dating back to the twelfth century.

Of course, we also enjoyed some fine single malt Scotch: Bowmore 12-year-old, as well as a few wee drams of the legendary Mackinlay’s Shackleton Discovery Edition whisky... tipples that, while not contemporaneous with Captain Jack Aubrey and his associates, would certainly have been appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed by them.

Was it a fine evening? Yes, it was, thanks to excellent company and good food. And one of the most pleasant things about it is the voluminous pile of leftovers, which we shall be revisiting later this evening. ((discreet belch))

Friday, December 13, 2013


Hambone and Me
Separated at birth? Elisson and the late, great Sandy Becker in his Hambone character.

It’s amazing, the childhood memories that can be evoked by a nutjob in a pith helmet.

Anyone who was a kid in the New York area in the 1950’s and ’60’s will remember Sandy Becker, the legendary children’s entertainer. Alas, most of his shows are lost to the ages, as WNEW, the TV station for which he created, them did not realize what a gold mine the old tapes could eventually be.  Instead, they taped over almost every single one.

But we, we Children of New York, remember Sandy... and when we see a pith helmet, the first thing that comes to mind is Hambone.

Hambone was just one of Sandy’s creations, along with Norton Nork, K. Lastima, Arthur Arrowroot, and Dr. Gesundheit. The Hambone bits didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but who cared?

As skooldays.com describes it,

“One of the more memorable and bizarre characters in Becker’s lineup was the mad disc jockey Hambone, who danced to the song of the same name while dressed in a pith helmet with a long plume, goggle-like eyeglasses and a gaudy military uniform. Spouting nonsensical advice like, “Cut the grass so the ants can pass,” Hambone quickly became a fan favorite.”

It was ridiculous. It made no sense. It was completely dopey.

It was hysterical... at least, if you were a kid.

And you’d better believe that I think of Sandy whenever I put that pith helmet on.


After the wretched excesses of Thanksgiving, there’s no better way to dispose of Turkified Remnants than by making a nice pot of soup. It’s an Elisson family tradition of long standing.

Green bean casserole... made from scratch.
Generally, Soup Night is the Sunday following the holiday. By that time, the turkey carcass is pretty well picked over and most of the other goodies - the sausage-rice dressing, the green bean casserole, the sweet potato pudding - have been devoured.

The soup starts with me taking the turkey carcass out of the fridge and busting it all to flinders before shoving it into a nice big stockpot, where it is joined by a pile of mirepoix - chunks of celery, carrot, and onion - along with a few cloves of garlic, some peppercorns and parsley stems, a bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme, and cold water to cover. There was still plenty of meat on this carcass, and I still had on hand some of my chicken stock, packed with gelatin from all the chicken feet I had used, so there was flavor to spare. After a slow simmer for three or four hours, we had a big potload of rich turkey stock.

The next step was to strain the stock, removing all of the solids. Once those had cooled enough, I picked out all of the chunks of turkey meat, discarding the bones and vegetables. The meat went back into the stock, along with some diced carrots and parsnips. Back on the fire it went for another slow simmer.

After about a half hour, I threw in about a pound of lentils and (just for grins) a handful of barley to give the soup extra body. And then it was only about an hour before it was Soup o’Clock. Behold:

Turkey-Lentil Soup
Turkey-lentil soup... perfect comfort food.

If this ain’t comfort food, I don’t know what is!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Minute by minute
Day by day
How long we have
No one can say

We live, we breathe
We laugh, we play
And suddenly
We’re nought but clay

Minute by minute
Day by day
How long we have
No one can say

There’s nobody
That you can pay
To keep the Reaper Grim

Minute by minute
Day by day
How long we have
No one can say

Whether you’re straight
Or whether you’re gay
You’ll hear the Apocalypse-Horsie

Minute by minute
Day by day
How long we have
No one can say