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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


It has been my established Bloggy Tradition - as traditional as ten years can make anything - that on the final day of the year I write a post that outlines the various high and low spots of the previous twelvemonth. Triumphs, tragedies, events both personal and global in scope: all grist for the year-end blog-mill.

But this year, I’m not going to do that.

Similarly, I’ll apologize to all the folks - friends and family alike - who await our annual snail-mail Family Newsletter with breathless (hah!) eagerness, for there will be none forthcoming. I am just not in the mood. (Besides, does anyone really give a shit about all that stuff?)

Yes, this year had its bright moments... but on balance it was one vast pile of suckage. And so I will not glorify it any further, but await the beginning of a new one and pray that it is better. Optimist that I am, I believe (whether foolishly or not) that it will be. That it must be.

Twenty-fourteen, fuck you and goodbye.

Twenty-fifteen, I sure hope you represent a major improvement over your immediate predecessor.

That is all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Or East Meets West, if you prefer.

At this year’s Momma d’Elisson Memorial Chanukah Dinner - an annual event that commemorates both the Festival of Lights and my mom, the late, great Bernice - East meets West by virtue of the menu, which consists of take-out Chinese food (East) alongside fresh, hot potato latkes (West).

But there’s another way to spin the East meets West game, and that is to take an Ashkenazic (i.e., Eastern European Jewish) food - the aforementioned latkes - and couple them with a Sephardic/Mizrahi (i.e., Iberian/Middle Eastern Jewish) food - herbed labneh.

Some time back, I saw an amazing recipe for herbed labneh with preserved lemon - a jacked-up version of a typical Middle Eastern cheese product. (Labneh is basically a thicker version of Greek yogurt. You can make it yourself by straining Greek yogurt through a cheesecloth or by taking the easy way out and buying it in prepackaged form at your local Middle Eastern grocery.) Since I happened to have a supply of preserved lemons handy (really!), I tried it. It was amazing.

It was even more amazing when spooned on top of Dee’s incomparable potato latkes. The cool, tart labneh, with its lemony savoriness (and a substantial burn from serrano peppers), perfectly complemented the latkes’ crispy crusts and creamy, potatoey interiors.

Potato Latkes - 2015 Edition photo PotatoLatkes-2014Edition.jpg
Herbed Labneh photo HerbedLabneh.jpg
Potato latkes (top); herbed labneh with preserved lemon (bottom). Put ’em together and you get a little slice of heaven right here on Earth.

I may never eat latkes with plain ol’ sour cream again.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Despite its length - a full eight days - Chanukah is a relatively minor part of the Jewish religious calendar. Especially in America, the holiday has grown enormously in significance over the past hundred years or so, but this is merely the reflected glow of Christmas, the Big Event of the majority culture. For observant Jews, Chanukah is a post-Biblical holiday, one that is not mentioned in the Scriptures - mainly because the events it commemorates occurred after the canon was finalized. The usual holiday restrictions against working, et al., are not in effect.

Chanukah is not the “Jewish Christmas,” as some misguided folks sometimes seem to think. And it does not - despite stories to the contrary - celebrate the apocryphal miracle of one day’s supply of sacred oil burning for a full eight days, long enough for more consecrated oil to be prepared. That is a story intended to provide a sense of wonder for the kiddies... but like many such stories, it has taken on the strength of urban legend. Alas that there is no snopes.com to refute religious mythology: If there were, they would have a full-time job.

The real miracle of Chanukah - the reason we light candles (one for each night, they shed a sweet light to remind us of years long ago, in the words of the song) - is a war fought against seemingly insurmountable odds. It’s the war fought by the Jewish zealots, led by Matityahu (Mattathias, in the Greek translation) and his sons, against the Greco-Syrian rulers of Judea who wanted to wipe out the practice of Judaism. It was the kind of underdog-versus overdog fight that generally results in the underdog getting his ass chewed off... but not this time. This time, the vastly outnumbered forces of the Jews delivered a sound thrashing to the Greeks. For not the first and not the last time, it was the kind of salvation that would inspire the popular Jewish dictum, “They tried to kill us; they failed; let’s eat.”

The Egyptians tried to break our spirit with institutionalized slavery.
The Greco-Syrians tried to break our connection with our faith.
Later, the Persians would simply try to murder us, as would the Nazis many hundreds of years later.

They all failed. And so we eat: matzoh and its derivatives (Passover), fried foods (Chanukah), hamantaschen (Purim).

The holiday liturgy tells the story quite succinctly:      

(And) for the miracles, and for the salvation, and for the mighty deeds, and for the victories, and for the battles which You performed for our ancestors in those days, in this time.

In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan, the High Priest, the Hasmonean, and his sons - when the wicked Greek kingdom rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and compel them to stray from the statutes of Your will - You in Your great mercy stood up for them in the time of their distress. You took up their grievance, judged their claim, and avenged their wrong. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton into the hands of the diligent students of Your Torah. For Yourself You made a great and holy Name in Your world, and for your people Israel You worked a great victory and salvation on this very day. Thereafter, Your children came to the Holy of Holies of Your house, cleaned Your Temple, purified the site of Your Holiness, and kindled lights in the courtyards of Your Sanctuary; and they established these eight days of Chanukah to express thanks and praise to Your great name.

[Special addition to the daily Amidah prayer for Chanukah]

The story of Chanukah puts me in mind of another lopsided victory: the battle of Agincourt in 1415, so famously described by William Shakespeare in Henry V. The English forces led by King Harry were arrayed against a French army five times their number, and the likelihood that they would survive - much less win - was basically nil. Was it Harry’s rousing speech (“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...”) on the eve of Saint Crispin’s Day or the hand of God that carried the English to an astonishing win? Who can tell?

There’s another connection, however tenuous, between Matityahu and Henry V. In Kenneth Branagh’s excellent 1989 film, the English soldiers carry away their dead and wounded after the battle, singing the Latin hymn Non Nobis. It is a powerful moment in the film, one that bears great emotional freight. Non Nobis, you may be interested to know, is the Latin translation of Psalm 115: “Not for us, Lord, not for us, but for Yourself win praise through Your love and faithfulness...” It’s a psalm we recite every day during Chanukah, and it is one that makes perfect sense when an Unlikely Victory comes your way.

No matter what your faith, may this season bring only good things to you!

Friday, December 19, 2014


Veteran readers of Lost in the Cheese Aisle - and people who know me personally - know that there is some sort of sooper-seekrit extra high-strength dopeyness that possesses me whenever we visit IKEA.

I’ve written several times about our visits to the Big Blue Box. One of the things that holds a perverse appeal for me is the Ikeonian practice of giving every article a name... a practice that began because the company’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, was dyslexic and found it easier to remember proper names than traditional product descriptions and/or codes. Sometimes the names are intuitive, sometimes not, probably because the naming convention relies heavily on Swedish and other northern European languages.

There is an actual system of nomenclature, and Business Insider nails it down pretty precisely:
  • Upholstered furniture, coffee tables, rattan furniture, bookshelves, media storage, doorknobs: Swedish placenames
  • Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture: Norwegian place names
  • Dining tables and chairs: Finnish place names
  • Bookcase ranges: Occupations
  • Bathroom articles: Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays
  • Kitchens: grammatical terms, sometimes also other names
  • Chairs, desks: men’s names
  • Fabrics, curtains: women’s names
  • Garden furniture: Swedish islands
  • Carpets: Danish place names
  • Lighting: terms from music, chemistry, meteorology, measures, weights, seasons, months, days, boats, nautical terms
  • Bedlinen, bed covers, pillows/cushions: flowers, plants, precious stones
  • Children’s items: mammals, birds, adjectives
  • Curtain accessories: mathematical and geometrical terms
  • Kitchen utensils: foreign words, spices, herbs, fish, mushrooms, fruits or berries, functional descriptions
  • Boxes, wall decoration, pictures and frames, clocks: colloquial expressions, also Swedish place names
Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, as BI notes in their article. But that is of no consequence. All you need to know is, there is a system... and it is perfect for creating unintentional hilarity.

Simply by pronouncing the various product names in a stupid, exaggerated Swedish Chef accent, I can amuse myself for hours. Whether anyone else finds this amusing is certainly open to question, especially (as has happened to me more than once) when I am inadvertently in the presence of actual Swedish people. But there is an even better source of jollity, one that I thought of last night:

Make up your own IKEA names.

That’s right. Every IKEA product has a name, but I’ll bet we all can come up with better ones. A refrigerator, for example. Why should it be called NUTID, when we can call it KALTENBØKSEN? And when I see some horrible op-art pillow, I don’t think NATTLJUS, I think EYEBØLHURTY. (Don’t even get me started on the toilets.)

So here’s how to play along, next time you go to IKEA. Take a picture of any random object that catches your eye, and give it a new IKEA name. Then post it to Twitter or Farcebook with the hashtag #fakeikeanames. Hey, who knows? With all the FUKNKRÅPP these people sell, maybe this thing will go viral!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


[If Dear Abby can get away with reprinting the same frickin’ Holiday Columns every stinking year, why not Elisson? We are therefore pleased to offer this ten-year-old Editorial Response previously published here and at Blog d’Elisson, one that is both timely and appropriate to the season. Chanukah begins at sundown on Tuesday, December 16 this year.]

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the electronic-mail communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of Lost in the Cheese Aisle:
“I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there was no Judah Maccabee and that Chanukah is a load of crap. Papa says, ‘If you see it in Lost in the Cheese Aisle, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth, was there a Judah Maccabee?” - Patty O’Furniture
Patty, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All they care about is that fat red-suited guy who schleps presents to Yenemvelt and back. All minds, Patty, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, goornisht, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Patty, there was a Judah Maccabee.

He existed as certainly as dedication and courage and devotion exist. He kicked some serious ass back in the day, Judah did, throwing the Greco-Syrians out of Judea and reclaiming the holy Temple. His struggle was a struggle against assimilation, against those who would be seduced by the pop culture of the day. He fought his battles so that we Jews would retain our cultural identity and not be swallowed up in the prevailing pagan mainstream. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there had been no Judah Maccabee! It would be as dreary as if there were no Pattys. (Or furniture.) There would be no candle-lighting then, no singing Ma-oz Tzur (or even those stupid dreidel songs), no commemoration of the miraculous rededication of the Temple. No Judah? We would even today be schmearing ourselves with olive oil and burning pig hearts as sacrifices to Zeus. And our Christian friends would have no Christmas - for the culture that gave rise to Jesus would have been wiped out. The eternal light - the ner tamid - with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Judah? You might as well not believe in fairies. Or the Matzohball That Does Not Sink. Or Eliyahu ha-Navi. You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the seder tables of the world to catch a glimpse of Eliyahu, but even if you did not see him, what would that prove? Nobody ever sees Eliyahu ha-Navi drink his wine at the Seder table, but that is no sign that there is no Eliyahu ha-Navi. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. (Although those footprints in the grass were more likely made by your Papa as he tried to sneak back into the house with a snootful of booze after the office Xmas party.) Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You can tear apart the knish and see the tasty filling inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Patty, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Judah Maccabee? Thank G-d he lived - and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Patty, nay, 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to chase the Greco-Syrians out of Judea and combat the forces of cultural assimilation, making glad the heart of childhood.

Happy Chanukah!

[Originally posted on December 25, 2004.]

Monday, December 15, 2014


Several of my former confederates at the Great Corporate Salt Mine got together for a holiday luncheon at one of the local burger palaces. About two-thirds of the group is currently retired; the ratio would have been closer to 50:50 working vs. retired, except for the fact that the ones that are still actively employed were too busy doing useful work than to lollygag at lunch.

Seeing the old gang was pleasant enough, but it did not fill me with nostalgic yearning for the Salt Mine. This did not surprise me.

As we prepared to leave, one of the fellows announced, “I’m going to pay Mrs. Murphy a visit.” It didn’t take a great leap of imagination for Mr. Debonair to suss out what he meant: He was going to visit the restroom. The phrase was clearly an alternative to the ever-popular “I’m going to see a man about a horse,” a way of quietly announcing that you will be absent for a few minutes on a personal errand that does not require more specific description in polite company. (For this purpose, one could also simply say, “Please excuse me for a moment,” but where’s the poetry in that?)

Interesting turn of phrase, that. I wonder what it says about Mrs. Murphy.

And now I have an entirely new theory as to who threw the frog in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Menu 2014 photo A-M2014121302a.jpg
The menu for this year’s Aubrey-Maturin Dinner, held on Sequential Day (12-13-14). “Nothing Exceeds like Excess,” quoth Captain Jack.

The stalwart Salts of the Royal Navy
Eat British Beef with steaming Gravy.
Accompanied by Yorkshire Puddings
And ev’ry Sort of tasty good Things.

They drink of Sherry and of Claret
Sufficient to enflood a Garret.
And should you ask them why they’re grinning,
’Twould be the Goose with all the Trimmings.

But that’s not all: Here come the Afters -
(Their Merriment doth shake the Rafters.)
A Figgy Pudding served aflame
And Sticky Toffee end the Game.

A crusty Pipe of vintage Port’s
The Drink to which they now resort.
Accompanied by fragrant Stilton,
By now their Appetites are wiltin’.

And thus we honour Pat O’Brian
To whom we build this Foodly Shri-an:
Creator of Aubrey and Maturin,
Our Royal In-spi-ra-ti-on!

Friday, December 12, 2014


I was in line to check out at the local Food-Emporium not too long ago. There was a pile in my cart (or buggy, for those familiar with Southspeak) small enough to qualify me for the express lane, but too many people with tiny-ass orders had already had that idea. So I found a lane with just one occupant who was already in the midst of paying for her order.

This shouldn’t take too long, thought I to myself. Silly boy.

I waited for the previous customer to complete her transaction. Her cart was already piled high with full sacks, ready to go. What was the hold-up? Was she trying to write a check? Was there a button she needed to push on the little Electronickal Keypad?

No. She was telling the cashier some long-winded anecdote by way of making conversation. I could gauge the cashier’s level of interest by the not-especially-subtle eye roll she threw at me as the woman yammered on, oblivious to the growing queue of impatient would-be food purchasers behind me.

Finally, she finished her blathering and headed for the exit, whereupon I said to the cashier, “Wow... she must’ve been vaccinated with a phonograph needle!”

The cashier was old enough to get the joke; she chuckled and flashed a grin. But it suddenly dawned on me that most people living in these digital days will not understand the quip - which comes, incidentally, from the Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup - because they have no idea what a phonograph needle is.

Good Gawd, I am getting old.


Cheeses at Di Bruno
A selection of cheeses at Di Bruno, an upscale Philadelphia grocery.

This is the time of year to remember to keep the Christ in Christmas. (Not that I have a dog in this particular hunt, but I’m always happy to contribute my two cents’ worth.)

On our side of the religious divide, the Elisson clan puts the Chan in Chanukah by having Chinese food along with our potato latkes... a tradition dating back twenty-seven years, and one that we observe in memory of my late mother.

And since this place is Lost in the Cheese Aisle, it’s a good idea to keep the Cheese in the Cheese Aisle. This I offer you in lieu of the expected (and overdone) seasonal riff on the “Cheeses of Nazareth.” (Oops.)

The photo above was taken in Philadelphia at the Di Bruno grocery near Rittenhouse Square. I could have spent hours getting lost in that particular cheese aisle. Fortunately for me, Dee and Elder Daughter were there to rescue me from mine own cheesy impulses.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Yet more crap 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 Coinage of the Day:

eggjaculation [eg-jak-yu-lei-shun] (n) - The sudden, forceful expulsion of yolk from a poached egg when punctured by the tines of a fork.

“Damn! Every time I have eggs Benedict, I get yellow gook all over my pants... I can’t ever seem to eat ’em without having them eggjaculate all over me. They oughta call that dish ‘eggs Benedict Arnold’!”

Friday, November 21, 2014


Capture the Flag
Capture the Flag, Dee’s favorite cocktail. Before I could make it at home, I first had to capture the formula.

In our house, I’m the cocktail maven, the mixologist manqué with twenty-five different bizarre elixirs taking up shelf space in the kitchen. If you want something with Aztec chocolate bitters or a gin crafted with botanicals from northern Québec, Elisson is your man.

Dee is decidedly different. Unlike many ladies who prefer frou-frou drinks involving cranberry juice or little umbrellas, she goes for more assertive beverages like the gingery Moscow Mule, and more often than not will drink brown goods with a style that would do any gentleman proud. Single malt Scotch neat?  Yes, please!

There’s a notable exception, though, and that is a cocktail that appeared at one of our nicer local watering holes. (They serve food there, too, so one could equally call it one of our nicer local food-troughs... but that somehow lacks finesse.) It’s called Capture the Flag, and nutty nomenclature aside, it’s a complex, bittersweet concoction that captured Dee’s heart.

What’s in it? You may well ask. According to the menu, it contains Maestro Dobel tequila, Amaro Ramazzotti, lemon juice, mole bitters, and spiced port-pineapple syrup. In other words, it’s pretty fucking complicated. But - and this is an important but - it is pretty fucking tasty.

When we recently dined at this establishment, we were bitterly disappointed to discover that the Capture the Flag cocktail was no longer being offered. It seems that the spiced port-pineapple syrup was the culprit: Their existing supply had gotten old and had to be eighty-sixed, and they had not yet gotten around to the (considerable) task of making up a new batch.

I explained to the bar staff that their special cocktail was much beloved by both of us, Dee in particular, and - given that they themselves would not be offering it again in the near future - would they consider sharing the recipe with me? Somewhat to my surprise, not only were they happy to divulge the basic instructions for building the drink, they also gave me the details on how to cook up the Sooper-Seekrit Ingredient that makes the whole thing work, namely the spiced port-pineapple syrup.

It’s a multi-step process. You first reduce a bottle or two of port by about 50%, simmering it with brown sugar and an assortment of warm spices. Then you sear pineapple chunks in the spiced port, caramelizing them and infusing them with that spicy, porty deliciousness. Finally, you simmer the seared pineapple chunks in simple syrup. That’s a lot of work for just one of the cocktail’s ingredients.

Spiced Port-Pineapple Syrup
Spiced port-pineapple syrup simmering in a pan on Darth Stover.

The drink itself - garnished with a spiced port pineapple chunk and a lemon twist - is magically delicious. Perhaps a tad sweeter than most cocktails on my Favorites List, but that matters not. I could drink these bad boys all night long.

Oh, you want the recipe? Sorry, no can do. But I will be happy to make you one. Just get in line behind Dee.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Pete shook his head. He had just gone over the financials with his accountant. Things did not look good. At the rate he was bleeding money, Pete’s Pastry Palace would have to close down in less than six months.

He had run a lucrative business for years and had become a beloved fixture in the neighborhood. Even the new mall failed to dent his sales. But when Boner Billy’s Bakeshop opened just down the street, Pete’s customers deserted him for Billy’s cock-shaped chocolate cakes. “Fucking sex fiends,” Pete thought.

But he fought back... and his Poon Danish saved the day.

[Inspired by the irrepressible (and occasionally reprehensible) Maven.]

Sunday, November 16, 2014


We’re shopping at IKEA
To get some FÜKNSTØFF
No matter what we purchase
It can never be enough.

I want to eat a meatball
The texture’s smooth, not rough
The perfect snack when we go back
To get our FÜKNSTØFF.

We’re shopping at IKEA
Our Swedish Happy Store
We’ll fill our carts, content our hearts,
And then come back for more.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Peace, Love, and Devotion
If you are my brother -
But if you are not,
Then the answer is “Other.”

“O, Lord, save us all
From hate and bigotry
And destroy all the heretics
Who believe differently.”

Religions teach love
And sometimes compassion,
But for the outsider
Mostly smackin’ and bashin’...

O, when God looks upon us
And sees what He’s wrought,
I sure hope He don’t think
His work was for naught

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


I love pizza. Hell, pretty much everybody loves pizza.

What’s not to love? Gooey cheese piled atop crusty bread. Some kind of tomato sauce and/or toppings may or may not be involved. Pizza is delectable.

For me, pizza is not just food - it is a part of my geocultural identity, given that I grew up in the village of Massapequa on the south shore of Long Island, where Italians were thick on the ground. What with the relatively large population of both Jews and Italians, it’s no wonder the place carried the sobriquet “Matzoh-Pizza.”

Massapequa Triptych

Even today, you can start a passionate discussion - perhaps even a fistfight - over which local restaurant served the best pizza forty years ago. Dick and Dora’s? Dino’s? The place at Sunrise Mall?

And no matter where you are, you can always argue about Pizza Details. Do you like a thin, crispy crust? Thick and bready? Kinda thin and floppy? Do you like massive or minimal amounts of cheese? What kind of toppings do you like - are you a plain cheese pie person or do you go for add-ons? Meaty standbys like pepperoni, meatball, and sausage compete with options such as bacon, Indonesian chicken satay, and duck confit... not to mention outliers like ham and pineapple, or the not-for-the-faint-of-heart anchovy. The vegetarians will face off over the issue of whether bell peppers, mushrooms, and spinach should be included.

Regardless, there is one thing upon which all pizza lovers will agree: Few things can spoil the pizza-eating experience more thoroughly than the Dreaded Pizza-Burn.

Cheese has a relatively high heat capacity, so when your pizza arrives in front of you fresh from the oven, you have to resist the temptation to just grab a slice and shove it into your Pie-Hole. If you don’t give that bad boy a chance to cool off a bit, you will immediately sear all of the flesh in your mouth. While that’s unpleasant enough, it gets even worse as the blistered skin of your palate sloughs off over the course of the next few days... a fresh reminder of your momentary Pizza Impatience.

Don’t ask me how I know this.

If you’re the masochistic sort who likes Pizza-Burn (I am sure such people exist, though I have never met any of them), be sure to load your slice up with crushed red pepper flakes. You can get your Pizza-Burn at both ends.

Don’t ask me how I know this.

Monday, November 3, 2014


I’m not sure why, but yesterday morning as I was feeding Miss Stella - or, more accurately, standing over the sink rinsing out Miss Stella’s plate - a song from my distant childhood popped into my head.

You know the song. Everybody knows the song. Its the one that involves a spider and a waterspout. But for some reason, as the song played in the deep recesses of my cranium, it just didn’t sound right. And I couldn’t figure out why.

The inky dinky spider went up the waterspout.

No, that’s not it.

The inky binky spider went up the waterspout.

Nope, still not it.

The inky winky spider went up the waterspout.

Damn, I was thinking by this time. What am I missing? Inky stinky? Inky blinky? Inky cacaminky?

By this time I knew I was in the midst of a major Brain Fart. I needed help.

Dee was upstairs in bed. “I need your help,” I said. She practically leaped out of the bed, concerned that something was wrong. “What is it? What do you need?”

“What kind of spider went up the waterspout?”

At this point convinced that I had lost my mind, Dee replied, “Itsy bitsy.”

Aha! Suddenly everything clicked into place. Itsy bitsy! Itsy fucking bitsy! Of course!

“Itsy” was the key to the whole puzzle. Once you have “itsy,” you see, “bitsy” follows of necessity. But “inky” plays with a lot of different friends, and that was the spanner in my mental works... the discordant note in my nutty cerebral symphony.

Random brain farts, alas, are one of the joyful side effects of getting old the maturation process. And even Dee is not immune. A few nights ago, looking for the remote control for the television, she asked, “Where did I put the munchkin light?” We both laughed ourselves silly over that one.

Thus, henceforth we shall refer to the remote control as the Munchkin Light... because we can, and because it is a way of tacitly recognizing that we are both losing our minds.

Friday, October 31, 2014


Scary Clown Elisson


We had so much Green Stuff last night, it seemed as though we could have been dining with Kermit the Frog... or one of his friends.

“I love eating green things.”
[Photo: Munawar Hosain/startraksphoto.co at pagesix.com]

First there were bowls of creamy roasted broccoli soup with spiced pepitas, made using a recipe I found over at Serious Eats. Pepitas are nothing more or less than pumpkin seeds, and in the current Hallowe’eny pumpkin spice frenzy (Pumpkin spice beer! Pumpkin spice Oreo cookies! Pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks! Pumpkin spice sexual lubricant!) they are one of the few forms of the Evil Orange Gourd that we actually enjoy. The pepitas looked a lot greener before they were toasted and combined with their spice mixture; meanwhile, the soup used about two whole pounds of broccoli crowns. Green plus green.

Soup by itself doesn’t really feel like a meal, and Dee wisely suggested adding some protein. We therefore enjoyed several beef kielbasa sausages as accompaniments.

Creamy Roasted Broccoli Soup
Creamy roasted broccoli soup with buttermilk and spiced pepitas (AKA pumpkin seeds).

Later, I indulged in a brace of gimlets. More green!

The gimlet, I should mention, was one of the first Adult Beverages I would order upon reaching drinking age... which, back in the day, was eighteen in New York and twenty-one in New Jersey. This meant that I could buy alcoholic beverages at a bar during summer vacation, but not during the school year. Then, a drink made with spirituous liquor cost all of $1.50, and the gimlet was a nice citrusy alternative to brown booze. Nowadays I make ’em with gin and homemade lime cordial in lieu of vodka and Rose’s lime juice, and they’re far more interesting.

All in all, a pleasantly green evening. Miss Piggy would approve.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Renaissance photo Renaissance.jpg
Elisson and Dee all decked out for Hallowe’en, early 1990’s.

Are you going to Renaissance Faire
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
The turkey legs, they are tasty there
Funnel cakes, three bucks and a dime

Try not to pick up a dose of the Plague
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
And don’t drink the water; ’twill make you gaig
Unless you don’t mind a mouthful of slime

Don’t wash too often, not once every week
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
They’ll think you’re a weirdo if you don’t reek
Or if you’re not encrusted with grime

The Renaissance ain’t what it’s cracked up to be
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
When most things were fragrant with poop and with pee
Thank Gawd we live in our Modern Time

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Pickled Herring
Pickled herring Elisson style, with grated apple, lemon zest, and sour cream.

A young lady, one Anne Byrn, styles herself the Cake Mix Doctor. She takes packets of commercial cake mixes, adds her Sooper-Seekrit Magickal Ingredients, and knocks out a cake that might be worthy of the Sacher-Konditorei. In theory, anyway.

There’s also a show on the Food Network called “Semi-Homemade,” in which the host, Sandra Lee - whose name sounds suspiciously like that of a cheesecake - tinkers with prepackaged dishes available in your friendly local food market to make them seem kinda-sorta homemade.

The talented Ms. Lee is also perfectly capable of cooking entire dishes from scratch, although if her lasagna recipe is any indication, you may be better off eating Pop-Tarts. In the world according to Elisson, lasagna does not contain apple cider vinegar, tomato soup, or cottage cheese. Ms. Lee, it would seem, disagrees.

The concept of a dish being “semi-homemade” is at least understandable, which distinguishes it from “semi-boneless ham.” (As George Carlin once observed, “Does it have a bone? Yes, it has a bone.”) And there is nothing wrong with taking a commercially available food product and doctoring it up to make it better. To kick it up a notch, as Emeril Lagasse might say. I have been known to do it myself on occasion.

I don’t play doctor with cake mixes (now, there’s a perverse turn of phrase!) mainly because it’s just as easy to make cakes from scratch. But herring? That’s another story. I am not about to make pickled herring from Original Raw Materials as long as I can get a good quality product in a jar... and at Costco, a quart jar of very nice pickled herring can be found for a very reasonable tariff.

It’s very nice, but with a little minor tinkering, it can be better than very nice. It can be excellent.

Take that quart jar of herring - onions, spices, and all - drain off the pickling liquid, and dump it into a large bowl. Core and grate half of a crisp, tart, unpeeled Granny Smith apple and throw that in. Add the zest of one lemon. (I use a Microplane zester, which is wonderful at removing the yellow zest while leaving the bitter white pith behind. And if you can get Meyer lemons, even better.) Now add about a cup of sour cream - more or less to taste - and stir the whole thing together. Let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to allow the flavors to come together, and then serve it forth.

If you hate pickled herring, this recipe isn’t likely to change your mind. But if you like pickled herring, it may very well change your life.

And there is no need to thank me. It’s my job. I’m the Herring Doctor!


I used to love my bowl of cereal at breakfast time.

Où sont les petits déjeuners d’antan?
Whether hot (steel-cut oatmeal, Wheatena) or cold (Weetabix, Grape-Nuts, Cheerios, or whatever was handy), a cereal-based breakfast was always a quick and easy option for the morning meal. (Well, OK - for steel-cut oats, maybe not quite so quick.)

But four years ago, I made a major change to my eating regimen, and carby breakfasts mostly became a thing of the past. Sure, I’ll still indulge in the occasional pancake or waffle, but the regular consumption of cereals is something I have, albeit reluctantly, had to leave behind.

On those mornings when I dine at home - I am a frequent breakfaster with the Minyan Boyz - I find myself making myself a two-egg omelette more often than not. An omelette is packed with protein and does not have to be a calorie bomb if properly made. With just enough breadstuff served alongside it to balance the protein, it is the ideal morning repast.

Some days, I use a bit of ghee - clarified butter - to line my skillet, and I add to the eggs fresh herbs and/or some grated cheese: Cabot clothbound cheddar, asiago, or Parmesan. Other times, I go the Japanese route, adding soy and hanakatsuo (shaved bonito), with a final dusting of powdered seaweed and nanami togarashi. But on days when I want something with a bit more zing, it’s time for Elisson’s Spicy Hot Indo-Sichuan Eggs.

Indo-Sichuan Eggs
Spicy Hot Indo-Sichuan Eggs.

I start with my homemade Chinese hot oil (hong you), infused with star anise, garlic, black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, and a small mountain of árbol chiles. One teaspoon goes in with the eggs and another to slick the pan. When the eggs have set enough, I’ll flip ’em to cook the top side just until set, then flip ’em back over and trowel on a couple teaspoons of sambal udang bercili, a fiery Indonesian condiment packed with hot chiles and tiny, crispy dried shrimp. (Well, I never said this was kosher.) Fold it over, slide it out onto a plate, decorate with some chopped cilantro, and - Bukittinggi’s your uncle - you’ve got a breakfast that will warm you going in, going down, and - quite possibly - going out. It’s a real wake-up call on a plate.

Damn, it’s tasty. Try some... if you dare!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Many years ago, my parents gave me a tallit – a prayer shawl – to mark a very special occasion.

When I first got the tallit, it was clean and new. I would wrap myself in it and feel, somehow, safe and comforted, as if enfolded in loving arms. Over the long years, I came to value that feeling.

I would sometimes imagine that one day I would be buried in that tallit, my body enshrouded, one corner of the tzitzit (fringes) removed to render the garment ritually unfit. (After all, the dead are not able to praise God.) And that was a comforting thought, too, that of spending eternity enveloped in the embrace of my beloved tallit.

Over the years, as I spent more time in the synagogue, my tallit began to show signs of wear. Some of the knots – those without religious significance – began to unravel. A few stitches started to come loose here and there. This did not bother me; after all, the loose threads, worn spots, and gradual darkening of the fabric meant that my tallit was being used, not sitting folded up in its bag in the back of the closet. There were a few tear stains, bittersweet reminders of sad days when I sought the consolation of prayer. Even these, I treasured.

I sometimes debated with myself. Should I take it and have it dry-cleaned? The decorative knots redone? Minor repairs? Or was part of the garment’s charm the fact that it bore the stigmata of long, loving use?

Was a tallit like a Velveteen Rabbit among ritual objects? If I used it and loved it long enough, would it become Real?

Two years ago, during our trip to Israel, I purchased a new tallit for myself – a souvenir of Old City Jerusalem. It was (and is) snowy white with black and silver accents, a remembrance of the sacred precincts where I bought it and to which we turn in prayer every day. I wear it only on special occasions: Shabbat and holidays. That, I figure, will slow down the inevitable accumulation of wear and tear.

Nevertheless, despite having that bright new tallit to hand, on weekdays I still utter the ancient benedictions and enfold myself in my old, worn tallit. And it still comforts me, almost forty years on.

But there are times I wonder. Would that tallit want to be buried with me? Or would it be happier with its loose seams tightened, freshly knotted, cleaned and ready to begin life anew?

Monday, October 20, 2014


For all you LOTR nerds out there...

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the inscription on the One Ring - in the language of Mordor (“Black Speech”), written in the Elvish tengwar script, and visible only when the ring is red-hot - can be sung to the tune of the Ode to Joy in the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony?

Ash nazg durbatulûk,
Ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulûk
Agh burzum-ishi krimpatul

Try it... it works!

Friday, October 17, 2014


Simchat Torah - the Festival du Jour for us Red Sea Pedestrians - always carries a bittersweet undertone. At least, so it seems to me.

It is the last float in a lengthy parade of holidays that begins with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur - the High Holy Days - and segues into the joyous fall festivals of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. It’s an awful lot of holidays packed into three weeks... and to make things even more confusing, the last two are observed on the same day in Israel but on two consecutive days elsewhere.

On Simchat Torah we complete the annual cycle of Pentateuchal readings, closing out the book of Deuteronomy with the story of Moses dying atop Mount Nebo after having had a far-off glimpse of the Promised Land he would never have a chance to set foot in... and then immediately starting over again with the first lines of Genesis, the story of Creation. It is beautiful, this juxtaposition of death and birth, of grief and joy, of endings and beginnings. Yet now the holidays are over, and soon the brightly colored leaves of early Fall will be replaced by the dreary chill and the bare trees of late November.

And I am a year older. Am I a year better, or wiser?

Nevertheless, it’s a happy day. Silly, even. The most degenerate among my crowd of Georgia bloggers would be amused no end by the sight of me standing by the shulchan (reading) table wearing a top hat... or of Houston Steve decked out in my Warrior Dash buffalo horns... or of Papa Lou, a diminutive 87-year old gentleman, sporting a baby bonnet. And did I mention the rolling bar cart, from which frequent nips of Jack Daniel’s and Seagram’s fine products were taken amidst the proceedings? And the all-pervasive air of foolishness?

The word “festive,” after all, comes from the word “festival,” right?

It is inappropriate to take pictures during a major holiday, just as it is on the Sabbath, so (alas) there is no photographic evidence to hand. Surely Papa Lou is grateful.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


It’s a tradition - well younger than some, but nevertheless, a tradition - that every October, a modest group of (mostly former) Online Journalists gathers in the unpresumptuous hamlet of Englewood, Tennessee to celebrate the birthday of the gentleman who styles himself Eric SWG.

Within that tradition, there are nested other sub-traditions that are observed to a greater or lesser degree. Boudicca frequently puts together a dish of her irresistible ziti for Friday supper, and Eric will prepare a repast of country-style ribs (along with a few tenderloin beefsteaks) to feed the assembled multitude Saturday night. Saturday breakfast at the Tellico Junction Café is de rigueur (a term you will not hear uttered at the Tellico Junction Café, by the way.) Offerings of gin and single-malt Scotch whisky appear as if by magic. Depending on the roster of attendees, there may be an impromptu concert by the Elderly Brothers - Denny and Jimbo - sometimes with John Cox, Dax, and Eric joining in. There have also been front yard rocket launches and trips to the gun range.

Not all of these sub-traditions are honored in any given year, but there is one that is never neglected... even if it is sometimes delayed until most of the party-goers have departed. That, of course, is the Declamation of Fine Poetry, and Eric is a Past Master of the art.

Eric generally will focus on his personal favorites: Robert W. Service, Ogden Nash, and Robert Burns. But he is a versatile fellow, our Tennessee Renaissance Man, and sometimes he treats us to something extra special. This year did not disappoint, because Eric trotted out the works of a Poetic Artist with whom many Americans are blessèdly unfamiliar. That would be William Topaz McGonagall, a failed poet of the first water. Failed, indeed, for McGonagall’s chief claim to fame was that his poetry was so atrocious, so hilariously piss-poor, that well after his death his work (if it can be called that) continues to attract an audience of incredulous, yet amused, readers. Here’s a taste:

Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

These lines make up the conclusion of “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” a poem that formed a perverse sequel to McGonagall’s earlier celebration of that short-lived bridge’s completion, namely “The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay.” That was the poem our gracious host read to us, the last stragglers at the end of the Hysterics at Eric’s, 2014 edition... and it contained this eerily prescient stanza:

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
I hope that God will protect all passengers
By night and by day,
And that no accident will befall them while crossing
The Bridge of the Silvery Tay,
For that would be most awful to be seen
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

Prescient... and laughable, another brick in the McGonagall edifice, one that contributed to his unique stature as possibly “the worst poet in the English language.” Which, by the bye, makes his style almost impossible to parody. But old Mister Elisson, he do love a challenge... so here goes:  

Once a year, bloggers gather near Etowah
Some come from nearby places, others far
They ride in the airplane and in the car
To get to Englewood, which is near to Etowah.

Their host is a man who quotes poetry
And who lives near a very large dogwood tree
And who likes his single-malt Scotch whisky
Which puts him in the mood to quote poetry.

He reads the works of Service, McGonagall, and Nash,
And drives a car – Vivienne – which we hope he won’t crash
And his guests fill his kitchen with all kinds of trash
While they listen to him quoting Service and Nash.

His birthday is in the month of October,
And the bloggers who celebrate it rarely are sober
But they’re happy to have been invited over
To hang out together in the month of October.

So here’s to the Renaissance Man of Tennessee
Who next October will turn forty-three
He calls himself Eric the Ess Doubleyou Gee
And he lives near Etowah, Tennessee.

Yes, I know it sucks. It’s supposed to.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Blood Moon
The full moon as seen Tuesday evening. Any resemblance to the “blood moon” of this morning’s total lunar eclipse can be blamed on Lightroom and Photoshop.

This morning, we were to have been treated to the sight of a Blood Moon, a Hallowe’enish name for the coppery disc seen during a total lunar eclipse.

A lunar eclipse, even during totality, does not completely darken the face of the moon. This is because sunlight is diffracted around the edge of the Earth by our atmosphere. The dark copper color of the Moon is simply the reflected light of sunsets and sunrises all around the world.

No soap here in the Atlanta area, though: Low clouds in the western sky obscured any possible sight of the setting moon. Bah. (Fortunately, lunar eclipses are not all that uncommon.)

Perhaps my Esteemed Readers in the more westerly parts of the country will have better viewing conditions. Enjoy!

Monday, October 6, 2014


Betty Grable
Betty Grable 20th Century Fox” by Frank Powolny - 20th Century Fox studio promo portrait. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the Minyan Boyz, a gentleman who retired a number of years ago from an important (and presumably well remunerated) gig at a major corporation, has taken up glamour photography as a hobby.

To quote the definition from Wikipedia, glamour photography is “a genre of photography in which the subjects, usually female, are portrayed in erotic or exciting ways... typically less explicit than pornography and erotica.” So you may or may not get a peek at a nipple now and again, but don’t expect to get a glimpse of schmutschkie.

This fellow’s work is actually quite good, and it enlivens many a post-Minyan breakfast when he passes his latest work around. His new iPhone 6 doubleplusfuckinghuge - the one with the Diamondvision™-size Retina display - shows his photographs off beautifully.

Glamour photography has been around for a long time, probably as long as photography... but it reached a sort of zenith during WWII and the years immediately afterward, with models such as Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Bettie Page, and Marilyn Monroe posing for what were popularly called pinup photos.

Another term for pinup photos is cheesecake photos, for reasons which are somewhat obscure. Life Magazine’s opinion was that
The origin of the term “cheesecake” to characterize these pinup shots is a matter of some contention, although one of the most widely accepted explanations is that men who first saw these sorts of photos in the early pinup days would exclaim that looking at them was “better than [eating] cheesecake.”
(In case you’re curious, the corresponding term for pinup photos featuring male models is “beefcake.” Ecch.)

Me, I like cheesecake photos... especially those featuring actual cheesecake. Viz:

Togarashi cheesecake slice
Togarashi cheesecake.

I don’t bake cheesecakes very often, for reasons which should be obvious: If I bake ’em, I eat ’em, and I don’t really need to be packing my face with these most insidious and deadly calorie bombs. But I could not resist trying out this one.

You’re looking at a togarashi cheesecake, generously flavored with nanami togarashi, a delightfully complex Japanese spice mixture that contains chili pepper, orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger, and seaweed. There are other kinds of togarashi - shichimi togarashi, f’rinstance - but I like the heat and citrusy undertones of the nanami version. It’s also great sprinkled on eggs and on smoked salmon.

The recipe, which I first saw in an inflight magazine, may be found buried in this online article. I adapted it slightly by jacking up the amount of togarashi and substituting Lyle’s Golden Syrup for the sorghum.

How bizarre does it sound, anyway... a cheesecake recipe featuring a gingersnap crust with a filling containing an obscure spice and goat cheese? Bizarre enough. But the results were surprisingly good. The goat cheese was undetectable, at least as far as the usual “goatiness” is concerned, having contributed just a trace of sharpness that plays well off the lemon and the warmth of the chili. In this cake, the marriage of sweet and hot is a match made in heaven.

Betty Grable would’ve loved it - as long as you didn’t tell her that it contained a Japanese ingredient, that is.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Amarillo Arnie liked to play his cards close to the vest... when he was wearing one, that is. Arnie, you see, was a champion strip poker player. The possibility of being vestless was, alas, part of the game.

But when Arnie invented No-Limit Texas Hold ’Em Strip Poker, the world of competitive clothes-removing card games was shaken to its core. Suddenly, terms like “the flop” took on a whole new meaning... especially among older players.

This didn’t faze Arnie in the least. Even when he had no pockets for his pocket rockets, he was all too happy to go all-in.

Monday, September 29, 2014


The Guild takes us to the sunny climes of the Mediterranean with this evening’s Spanish-themed wine event at Eclipse di Luna.

With the exception of a single red blend from Argentina, all of this tasting’s wines are from Sunny España. And given that my knowledge of Spanish wines is pretty much confined to the basics of Rioja and sherry, to me this looks like a fine opportunity for a little education. Plus... how can one refuse tasty Spanish food, served on an “all you care to eat” basis?

Here’s the bill of fare...

2011 Agro de Bazán Granbazán Albariño Etiqueta Ambar, Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain*

Gambas al Ajillo - Sautéed shrimp with garlic and Calabrese peppers
Ostiones Fritos - Fried Chesapeake oysters with a citrus herb aioli

First Flight
2010 Bodegas Palacios Remondo La Montesa (75% Garnacha, 20% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo) Rioja, Spain*

Ensalada de Manzána - Arugula, radicchio, Granny Smith apples, candied walnuts and Manchego cheese with apple cider walnut dressing
Calamares Fritos - Lightly fried calamari with pico de gallo

Second Flight
2008 Bodegas y Vinedos O. Fournier BCrux (60% Tempranillo, 30% Malbec, 10% Merlot) Mendoza, Argentina****
2005 Bodega Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva (90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, 5% Garnacha Rioja), Spain**

Salmon a la Parilla - Grilled salmon, smoked piquillo pepper relish and kalamata tapanade

Third Flight
2010 Bodegas Volver Tarima Hill (100% Monastrell) Alicante, Spain**
2011 Vinessens Sein (60% old vine Monastrell (60 yr old), 40% young Syrah) Alicante, Spain
2012 Castaño Solanera (70% Monastrell, 15% Cabernet, 15% Garnacha) Yecla, Spain**

Costillas Españolas - Spanish-style ribs and aged balsamic vinaigrette
Patatas Bravas - Spiced potatoes with romesco sauce

Fourth Flight
2012 Tintonegro Malbec Limestone Block, Mendoza, Argentina*
1998 Muga Torre Muga, Rioja, Spain****
2004 La Rioja Alta Reserva Viña Ardanza (80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha Rioja), Spain**

Carne a la Parilla - Grilled hanger steak, roasted tomatillo sauce and cucumber salad

2006 Alvear Fino En Rama (100% Pedro Ximenez), Montilla Moriles, Andalucia, Spain**

Per my usual practice, I’ll post an update with my post-drinkem commentary.

The food was excellent and available in quantities limited by our own appetites. Our dessert wine, a fino PX, was anything but desserty - it would have fared much better being paired with the first round of appetizers. Other than that, the wines were hit and miss, with a few nice surprises thrown in: The BCrux and Muga were killer.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


We’re all familiar with palindromes, those words and phrases that read the same in both directions.
  • Bob.
  • Madam, I’m Adam. (Possibly the first palindrome ever.)
  • A man, a plan, a canal - Panama!
Years can be palindromic as well. The last three were 1881, 1991, and 2002; the next will be 2112. (The turn of the millennium accounts for the relatively close proximity of 1991 and 2002, only eleven years apart instead of 110.)

Like countless others, my mother never saw a palindromic year. Her entire lifespan - a too-short sixty years - began well after 1881 and ended before 1991. And yet Dee and I, along with Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm, have experienced two.

We Red Sea Pedestrians in the Diaspora, given that we use both the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars, get a crack at yet another palindromic year. The setting of the sun this past Wednesday evening marked the start of 5775. (Bob! 5775, Bob!)

Too bad none of us now living are likely to get to see the year 2222. “Palindrome” doesn’t quite capture it. What should we call it?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


New Year Challot
Round (or round-ish) challot, especially baked for the New Year, await their slathering of honey.

A New Year begins as the Old Year ends:
Shanah Tovah to my Jewish friends.

שנה טובה ומתוקה

May the year 5775 bring you health, happiness, and all manner of good things without limit. (Same goes to our non-Jewish friends. Just because your Calendrical Odometer doesn’t tick over when ours does doesn’t mean you should miss out!)

Friday, September 19, 2014


Yes, it’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Again.

So: What arrrh you going to do about it?

Have a parrrhty?

Wear a carrrhstume?

Or just ignarrrh the whole fucking thing?

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Widow's Kiss Cocktail
Widow’s Kiss Cocktail.

There’s nothing that will bring you bliss
Like the sweet, sultry savor of a Widow’s Kiss.
It tastes of herbs and apples and mystery,
And if you have one or two, it will set you free.

This seductive little marvel uses Calvados, the delicate apple brandy of Normandy, as its base. It is a bit on the sweet side thanks to a dose of Bénédictine, and deliciously floral as well, owing to the presence of Chartreuse. (The traditional recipe calls for yellow Chartreuse, but since I have only the green variety, that’s the one I use. It makes for an extra powerful cocktail.) Here’s how to make one:

1½ oz Calvados (Laird’s bonded apple brandy or applejack can be used in a pinch)
¾ oz yellow Chartreuse (Green Chartreuse works just fine)
¾ oz Bénédictine
4 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. Drink carefully... didn’t I say it was powerful?

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Tai Kimuchi

Tai kimuchi - dried red snapper cured in soy and chile pepper - and an Aviation. Don’t judge.

I made the cocktail with Nolet’s gin and Meyer lemon - a real high flyer. The perfect apéritif for a dinner consisting of leftover gumbo.


We’re not necessarily the sort of people you would consider early adopters.

We’re not the first in line to buy the latest technological gimcrack or gewgaw. (The iPhone 6 will probably have to wait.) And yet we are not complete Luddite dinosaurs. Viz:

Yes, this is a real product. And today, for the first time, I tried it... and it worked. It worked most effectively, living up to its (refreshingly candid) advertising.

Now there’s no need to get cocky... or at least to get cocky-aroma in the old nostrils.

It’s a refreshing surprise to find a product that does what it claims to do... and even more surprising, to find its place in the market despite never being advertised on television - to my knowledge, anyway. Social media seem to be doing the heavy lifting, along with Internet-based sales and distribution - a real 21st century business model.

Why, it’s the best thing since sliced loaf bread!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


The TeeVee was playing in the den as I was fixing supper this evening, and I heard an ad that summoned up a bittersweet memory. It was for a tobacco cessation drug.

Chantix... helps reduce the urge to smoke.

I remember when I was visiting Eli, hizzownself, back in early January. He was still with us then, but it was evident - especially in retrospect - that he was nearing the end of his rope. He was just... tired.

His cognitive abilities were starting to slip. He would ask to be taken back to his room, forgetting that he already was in his room. And yet he could still be sharp as a tack.

We were watching the TV in his room and an advertisement for Chantix came on, along with the familiar tagline: “Chantix... helps reduce the urge to smoke.”

And apropos of pretty much nothing, I said, “Charlie Chantix...”

Eli responded immediately. “Helps reduce the urge to solve mysteries.

It was a flash of lightning amidst the thickening fog, but it was a flash nonetheless... and Dee and I were there to bear witness.

I miss you, Dad.


The other day, one of Dee’s students presented her with an edible gift.

Eschewing long-standing traditions, said student did not bring the usual apple for the teacher. Instead, she fell back on her own family heritage with a Foodly Offering of zereshk polo.

Zereshk polo? WTF izzat?” I can hear you asking. It’s a reasonable question, unless you spend time hanging out with people of Persian extraction. It is nothing more or less than a rice pilaf (pilaf, polo, and pullao being linguistic and culinary relatives) with a liberal dose of sweet-sour zereshk (barberries), along with saffron to provide a subtle flavor counterpoint.

Zereshk Polo
Zereshk polo, fresh from the Polo Grounds. Yum.

What elevates a Persian-style polo above its ricey cousins is the marvelous caramelized crust that forms on the bottom of the pan as it cooks. When the polo is ready to be served forth, the pan is inverted onto the plate so that that crust - the precious tahdig - sits on top of the pile of polo. The considerate host will ensure that everyone gets his or her share of tahdig by hacking it into manageable portion-size chunks.

On a somewhat unrelated note, Dee and I had been watching a show on the Food Network the previous evening, the one in which Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri take turns mugging for the camera while coaching teams of skillet-wielding toddlers. When one of said toddlers prepared a smoked chicken gumbo using red bell peppers in lieu of green, it struck me as unusual: Green peppers are one of the traditional components of the “trinity,” the Cajun-Creole mirepoix that forms the base of all good gumbeaux. (If that’s not how you spell the plural of “gumbo,” it oughta be.)

Neither of us are big fans of green peppers, gumbo being one of the few dishes in which we use them (the other is gazpacho) - so right then and there I resolved to try making a gumbo with red peppers. Said gumbo, crammed with chicken Andouille sausage, turned out to be similar in flavor to the conventional version but far more colorful. Even better, it was a fine accompaniment to my little plate of zereshk polo at lunch the following day.

Red Pepper Gumbo
Andouille sausage gumbo with red bell peppers. When your Polo Match is gumbo versus polo, everybody wins!

In case you’re curious, I did not put the polo in the gumbo. That’d be a no-no.

Monday, September 8, 2014


O, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
In the clouds where the seraphim sing.
Yes, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
(Mister Angel, please pass those wings.)
Yes, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
For what else can I say?
The Founding Father of Chick-fil-A
Has gone and passed away,
Has gone and passed away.

The benevolent S. Truett Cathy
Has earned his Eternal Rest
After a lifetime of selling
The wing, the thigh, and the breast.
The chickens all cluck, “Hallelujah!”
For their nemesis has done and passed;
They all say, “We hope he’s cremated -
Let him taste that hot oven blast - O, yes -
Let him taste that hot oven blast!”

O, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
In the clouds where the seraphim sing.
Yes, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
How angelic, the taste of those wings!
Yes, they’re eating chicken in Heaven,
Where the good people go when they die,
Where they say, “Jesus saves, and Moses invests,
And Mister Cathy? He fries, he fries -
And Mister Cathy, he fries!”

[S. Truett Cathy, founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, passed away today at age 93. “And He will raise you up on chicken’s wings...”]


Yesterday evening, Dee and I were watching yet another show on the Food Network. (When we’re not watching shows about foods we can’t bother to cook on the Food Network, we’re watching shows about real estate we can’t afford on HGTV.)

I’m not sure what made her look towards the sunroom - possibly Stella taking an unauthorized walk on the dining room table - but the strange light pouring through the windows immediately grabbed her attention. “Take a look at that,” she said.

The skies were a bizarre yellow-orange, more what you would expect to see on Krypton or Mars. The yellow light that illuminated the sunroom was not the hue of a normal sunset; it felt strange and alien, vaguely threatening despite not being the eerie dark-green of a tornado sky.

I went out the front door, camera in hand, to see what I could see... and here is what greeted me:  
Orange Sky 3
View towards the northwest.

Orange Sky 2
View towards the southeast. Where General Zod at?

Towering storm clouds boiled in the distance, lit from behind by a sun angry at having to go to bed early. It reminded me of nothing so much as “A Feasibility Study,” an old Outer Limits episode in which a six-block chunk of suburbia gets teleported to a distant planet: It looked almost as though that same fate had befallen our neighborhood.

But no. No repulsive aliens waited to enslave us, no annoying electrical hum met our ears... just a couple walking their dog and looking completely unconcerned at the strange orange-yellow sky. Just another late summer day in Marietta.

So I went in and fixed myself a drink... ’cause I’m the guy who put the Bar in Barsoom.

Friday, September 5, 2014


That’s how I feel after this morning’s, errr, ahhh, procedure.

It’s the kind of thing Old Guys like me should have done every five to ten years... and the kind of thing that probably would have inspired a frenzy of Crap-Blogging a decade ago, back when the world was new and we cared about such fecal matters. But I just don’t have it in me anymore.


Crap-Blogging was once a thing, but for better or worse it is the sort of thing that does not seem to work on Facebook, where the audience is not a random bunch of internet geeks but rather a circle of friends, family, and acquaintances. It all seems like Too Much Information.

And even here on the bloggy side of things, you’re safe. I do not plan to post photographs, though I do have them... and they are fascinating in a perverse sort of way. (How often do you get to have a glimpse of your own living, glistening innards?)

To close, a brief Poetic Reflection on the day’s events:

The very idea, why it’s just nuts -
To have a tube shoved up your guts
Therewith for to inspect the Colon
And thus ensure there’s nothing growin’.
The preparation is no damn fun:
“Excuse me, but I’ve got to run!”
But give me a dose of Propofol,
And whatever you do, I won’t care at all.

Friday, August 29, 2014


The Penitential Season, that is, which got kicked off Wednesday as the month of Elul began.

That means that only one month remains before the Jewish New Year rolls in, to be followed by Yom Kippur. Those are holidays marked by a certain degree of sober introspection, for this is the time when we traditionally take stock of our lives and try to turn towards the paths of righteousness.

During Elul, morning services conclude with the sounding of the Shofar, the ancient ram’s-horn trumpet that serves as both a warning and a call to action: a spiritual alarm clock of sorts. And we recite Psalm 27, the special psalm for the penitential days, from now until Hoshana Rabah in the latter part of next month.

Psalm 27 has always resonated with me, but this year it hits especially close to home with this verse in particular:

Ki avi v’imi azavuni va-HaShem ya-asfeini - Though my father and mother leave me, the Lord will care for me.

This is the first New Year I will be facing as an orphan: My father and mother have now both left me. It is a sobering realization... and yet it is the way of the world.

As for me, I have plenty of sober introspection of my own to face. I suspect most of us do as well. The Human Condition, they call it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


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 Expression of the Day:

Santayana Claustrophobia [san-ta-yan-a claws-tro-fo-bi-a] (n) - The fear of learning from history.

The phrase is a mash-up of Santayana (George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”) and claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces.

“When I see what’s going on in Europe these days, it’s just like before World War II broke out. Those people must be suffering from a collective case of Santayana Claustrophobia!”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Sometimes the wheels of Justice grind slowly, but grind they do... and most of us hope never to get caught up in them. Herewith, a story...

It was June of 2013, and we were in Philadelphia to attend Elder Daughter’s graduation from clown school the Pig Iron School of Advanced Performance Training. We had an opportunity to see an extraordinary group of actors demonstrate their craft in various performance pieces, and a graduation ceremony that managed to be both touching and amusing, a ceremony that was entirely fitting for this, Pig Iron’s very first APT class.

At the time, the Missus was suffering from a torn ligament and associated tendinopathy, a Footly Condition that made it extremely difficult and painful to walk. Consequently, she applied for - and received - a temporary handicapped placard from Cobb County, Georgia that enabled her to use designated handicapped parking places.

Parking Placard

But apparently, some of the beat patrollers in Philly never got the memo, because on our final morning there, after having parked in a streetside handicapped parking place, we returned to our car to find a parking ticket on the windshield. The officer who issued the ticket noted that our placard (which was mounted correctly on the rear-view mirror) had been issued in Georgia but that the car we were in - the Mistress of Sarcasm’s ride - was registered in Connecticut. This, at least in his mind, was evidence that we had not only parked illegally in a handicapped space, but that we had done so fraudulently. Fraudulently, by Gawd!

The ticket was for a jaw-dropping $1001. Yes, you read that correctly: It was a thousand-dollar parking ticket.

Great Googly Moogly! I had thought, until then, that the only way to get a thousand-dollar parking ticket was to park at a kindergarten... on top of all the children.

Needless to say, with that much cabbage on the line, we were not about to “pay the two dollars.” Instead, we filed an appeal online with the City of Philadelphia. After all, isn’t portability the whole point of having a portable handicapped parking placard?

After waiting about seven weeks, we received a polite letter informing us that the charge had been dismissed. Justice had been served.

And the timing was exquisite.

The morning of the letter’s arrival, the day’s Torah reading had included the immortal verse from the Book of Deuteronomy, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof: Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.”

Yesterday, the cycle of our annual Torah readings brought that selfsame verse around once more, reminding me of this story of Justice, Delayed but not Denied. And so, Esteemed Reader, I share it with you.

Monday, August 25, 2014


This evening’s Guild event will be held at Saltyard, a tapas and small plates place just north of the Brookwood Interchange on Peachtree. The theme - such as it is - is “Floral, Herbal, and Sweet,” which are flavors I can get by mixing myself an Aviation cocktail with Nolet’s gin, but which can also be teased out by the appropriate wines and accompanying dishes. For my part, it gives me an opportunity to try a restaurant I’ve never even heard of before.

Here’s what’s on the menu:

NV Manuel Janisson & Roland de Bruyne Kirkland Champagne Rosé**

First Flight
2013 Bevan Dry Stack Sauvignon Blanc*
2012 Quintessa Illumination Sauvignon Blanc**
Lime and cilantro grouper ceviche, wonton chips
Smoked salmon chips, lemon-dill mascarpone
Crispy oysters, lemon-dill aioli 

Second Flight
2012 Michel Gassier Cercius Blanc*
2009 Pegasus Bay Chardonnay***
Seared diver scallop, creamy polenta, red curry butter, mâche leaves

Third Flight
2010 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir*
2012 Melville Estate Pinot Noir***
Roasted mushroom, caramelized fennel risotto, fines herbes, arugula pistou

Fourth Flight
2011 Highland Estates Merlot Grand Reserve**
2010 Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon***
Braised pork cheeks, herbed whipped potatoes, glazed carrots, jus

2003 Château La Gravière Tirecul Monbazillac***
Crème brûlée, blackberries

2003 W. H. Smith Pinot Noir****
1996 Domaine Cady Cuvée Volupté Coteaux du Layon Saint Albin**
2003 Mitolo Reiver Shiraz - Barossa Valley***

Will Houston Steve be there? Alas, not this time. Nevertheless, I’ll follow my usual procedure and post my impressions in an after-event update.

Update: A few really nice wines, especially as the evening progressed and we moved into the reds. As for the food, great appetizers, fine dessert, and toothsome pork cheeks... and a totally forgettable risotto. The star was the seared diver scallop dish, served with a bright red curry butter that somehow magically worked perfectly with the Pegasus Bay chardonnay. I could have eaten a bathtub full of those bad boys.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Bouncing Ball
Parabolic ping-pong. The bouncing ball traces graceful parabolae in its flight.

This photograph - the original was a black-and-white Polaroid - was taken by illuminating a bouncing ping-pong ball with a strobe light. The bouncing ball describes a series of parabolae of decreasing height: physics as art.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Don Pardo
Don Pardo, 1918-2014. Requiescat in pace.

His voice was strong until the last,
But now Don Pardo’s onward passed.
When he arrives at Heaven’s shelf,
Saint Pete will say, “Announce yourself!”

Don Pardo, whose voice was familiar to millions as the announcer for Saturday Night Live for all but a single season since 1975, has died at the age of 96.

To be perfectly honest, I had absolutely no idea that Mr. Pardo was anywhere near that old. His larynx betrayed nary a hint of his advancing years, not even a quaver.

I wonder what it must have been like for him to go about his everyday life - supermarkets, restaurants, et al. - and being the recipient of numerous Quizzical Looks ’n’ Comments: “You sound like someone I know!”

Ave atque vale, Don Pardo. You were a “Pardo-v” our lives for so long, and we will miss your unique voice.

[*The title is a subtle allusion to an old - and completely unrelated - post.]

Monday, August 18, 2014


Ruff Stuff
Stella displays her Ruff Stuff.

I never ever get enough
Of Stella-Kitty and her rough

When Stella-Kitty struts her stough
Don’t dare to give her any gough

In winter, she could be a mough
And keep you warm with all her flough

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Dennis Kucinich
Liked to eat spinach.
But when he ate spinach, he’d itch.
He’d say, “Son of a bitch!
I’ve an itch in my niche
And whether you’re poor or you’re rich,
An itch in the niche
Is a gold-plated bitch
’Cause you can’t just reach up there and skritch.”


It’s mid-August, but here in the greater Atlanta area the past couple of days have felt more like late October, with crisp, clear mornings and a much more moderate temperature than usual.

This is good.

I love the transition from summer to autumn, and if by some miracle it takes place a bit early, you will not hear me complaining.

And yet, I love summer. One of the little pleasures of Sweaty Season is the availability of delicious sweet Bing and Rainier cherries at reasonable prices, and so there will be, more often than not, a bag or two of those little beauties residing in our fridge this time of year.

I’m not sure why I was inspired to actually do something with our latest pile of cherry inventory besides eat them out of hand, but I got it in my head to use them for cooking up something sweet... and so I did.

There’s a classic French dessert called clafoutis (AKA clafouti, pronounced “clafootie” to rhyme with “tutti frutti”), a sort of rusticated cherry tart that is a bastard child of a Dutch baby pancake and a fruit cobbler. It’s been around long enough to have shown up in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and to have surfaced in numerous places online. The recipe is pretty straightforward, the hardest part being pitting all of those damned cherries.

I tweaked the formula a bit by macerating the cherries in kirschwasser for a couple of hours... and instead of a tablespoon of vanilla, I cut that amount in half and added a teaspoon of almond extract, a flavor that is a natural complement to that of cherries. About an hour in a 350°F oven and... BOOM.

Cherry Clafoutis
A rooty tooty, fresh and fruity clafoutis.

Was it good? Yes, it was, damn it.

Before we know it, summer really will be winding down. In the meantime, we may as well enjoy the wonderful flavors the season has to offer. Clafoutis! Have one today.

Update: The estimable Big Hominid calls another clafoutis treat to our attention: Jasmine Cuisine’s Clafoutis Choco-Cerise from Québec. ’Cause, you know, chocolate and cherries.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Robin Williams
Robin Williams, 1951-2014. Requiescat in pace.

“I heard a joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, ‘Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.’ Man bursts into tears. Says, ‘But, Doctor... I am Pagliacci.’” - Rorschach, from Watchmen (Alan Moore)

The worlds of comedy and acting lost a shining light yesterday, and we are all diminished.

It is a cruel irony that so many of those with the great gift of bringing laughter to others are unable to cope with the pain in their own souls. So it was with Robin Williams.

Ave atque vale... and nanoo-nanoo.

Monday, August 11, 2014


A Reuters photographer recently shot a photograph of a brawl in - of all places - the Ukrainian Parliament.

That, in itself, was not especially noteworthy. Sure, you don’t necessarily expect a country’s lawmakers to be duking it out in the midst of a legislative session, but this was Ukraine, after all. Besides, governmental civility has been on the decline in our own country for years. We might not have reached bottom yet, but who is to say that fistfights won’t be breaking out in the House of Representatives after the next election?

What was remarkable about the photograph was not so much its subject matter as its composition. Inadvertently, the image was an almost perfect exemplar of a beloved Renaissance compositional technique involving the use of the Golden Spiral. Caravaggio would have understood this photograph perfectly, although he might have wondered just what exactly a Parliament was supposed to be.

Ukrainian Bitch-Fight
Art is where you find it: Ukrainian solons duke it out in a manner befitting Michelangelo or da Vinci.

(I tweaked the lighting a bit and “oilpainterized” the image before sticking it in this frame, in case you were wondering.)