Thursday, March 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Give it up For 'The Flim-Flam Man'

by Rose A. Valenta

My Uncle Harry has it in for complainers. I feel that God has to look out for them more because they are misguided; so is Harry, but he is clueless.

Harry smelled my bacon cooking this morning and invited himself over for breakfast, as usual, with a solution to yet another social issue.

“Look at how many complainers there are,” he said. “Some people only complain about a few things, like the high price of food, clothing, and shelter; while others complain about practically everything. Do you realize how many personal attacks there are because Kilroy was here and Paul, the late Psychic Octopus, picked Spain to the win the World cup? Some people have no sense of humor. Whatever happened to honest solutions and self-motivation?” He said.

“Harry, what have you been smoking?” I asked. “I just rolled out of bed; put the cat out; started cooking bacon and eggs; still need coffee to wake up, so I can put on Tyler Florence and enjoy myself; and you come over here talking about Kilroy and self-motivation. I was already motivated before you came over.”

“See, you’re complaining already, just what I’m talking about.”

“How do you want your eggs this morning?” I asked.

“Did you check the expiration date on the carton?” he responded.

“Harry, can I get a straight answer, please?” I asked. “Obviously you forget that I’m always in the world of discombobulation before coffee.”

“I’ll take them scrambled, but not watery like they were on Sunday.”

“Oh! Okay, here is the frying pan and two eggs. I guess you can get self-motivated. I’ll be in the next room watching Tyler. The bacon is cooked already. It’s an honest solution.”

“It’s my day off, like Sunday!” He said in disbelief.

“Yes, and I just asked God for inspiration. I said ‘God please help me deal with this man, who questions my cooking; doesn’t pay for the food; watches that idiot Bill O'Reilly, who forgot to ask the President Super Bowl-related questions, on my TV; stores his flip-flops on my screen porch; and thinks he can solve the world’s problems because he is being influenced by chronic complainers.”

“What chronic complainers influence me?” He asked.

“FoxNews!” I answered. “They could be 'Mikey' in a cereal commercial. You're addicted. Just think about how much more pleasant your world would be today, if you put on ‘Funniest Home Videos’ or, since it's Women's History Month, a nice documentary about Eleanor Roosevelt, instead of Fox News on the TV.” I said.

“Very Funny!” He said sarcastically. “Obama’s got the whole world on a sinking ship, and you want me to watch comedy or a woman's life story, who could have beaten Eisenhower hands-down if the Democrats weren't so stupid. They chose to run Adlai Stevenson? Ha!”

“It’s the way you look at things, Harry. Why dwell on politics every day, when you know Obama's term is almost over?”

“Like the Mayan Calendar ran out in 2012 - its too late, and we owe $17 trillion.” He said.

“Oh, so you saw that movie too! No wonder you are grumpy. You would prefer that they skin Obama alive in 2014, so you can watch and buy Gold because the world might come to an end after all? How will you spend your earnings? That makes a lot of sense. You’re going to have to trust me on this, Harry. If you watch every comedy movie ever made via Netflix between now and the primaries, instead of Fox News, your blood pressure will drop 20 or 30 points," I said.

"Nothing will change, Fox has made a soap opera out of our Commander-in-Chief called Rodney Dangerfield Incarnated. You will be pleasantly surprised at the new list of candidates for 2016. Maybe the media will show some respect for the next person we elect. After all, Obama is our president, not the dictator they depict. He consults with the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Attorney General. As far as I know, none of them are communists,” I added; plus, if you have any doubt about his sense of humor, watch the real interview he did with Between Two Ferns."

“Damn! and you didn't have coffee yet? Will you make me some scrambled eggs, if I wean myself gradually?” He asked.

“How about watching the cooking channel with me today?” I answered. “Tyler doesn’t spew hate and makes a helluva good old fashioned American apple pie. Then, we can go out to the movies and see the old comedy for throwback Thursday The Flim-Flam Man.”

“Okay, it’s a deal,” he said.

Yes! Give it up for The Flim-Flam Man!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A 'Little Chicago' Story

by Rose A. Valenta

When I was growing up, I used to spend most of my summers visiting my Grandmother in Olean, NY. If you have never heard of Olean, it is a great little community just over the New York State line from Bradford, PA. It was also a major bootlegging stop during Prohibition. In the 1920s, the press nicknamed the town "Little Chicago" because of its connection with organized crime, bootleggers and Al Capone; who often visited there.

My Grandparents were born and raised near Olean, before 1900. They married in Olean and raised seven children there. Unfortunately, Grandma was widowed young and had to obtain a position as a baker at The Olean House, an upscale hotel, to support her children; where she managed to get promoted to head baker. She was well-known in the community for her expertise at baking the best cakes and pies. Whether she ever baked an Italian Rum Cake for Capone, she never said. However, she always brought baked goods to family gatherings, her NSDAR ladies (Olean Chapter 1117), and often donated recipes to church cookbooks that were being produced for charity.

One could describe her as the Walter Staib of Olean - traditional recipes using original methods of baking.

I was her youngest granddaughter and she took me under her wing in the kitchen. It was a lost cause, however, because even a simple thing like cupcakes turned out like hockey pucks when I tried to make them. I remember once, she actually stood over my shoulder while she dictated a cake recipe. It was one of her famous orange Bundt cakes with orange glaze. Sure enough, it came out of the oven like a paper weight. It had risen less than an inch. I wrote an essay about it in my book, Sitting on Cold Porcelain, called “Thanksgiving Plans – Remember the Titanic.”

I got married in Philadelphia, Grandma retired from the Olean House, and we visited regularly. She was still sharp as a tack at 90 years old. She managed to take several solo trips to Florida to visit her younger sister before she passed.

Somehow, during that time, a light bulb went on in my head and I learned how to cook. I never did get the hang of baking a good cake, however, but there was Duncan Hines and the box cake only turned out lop-sided once. That’s when she put me wise to turning the tins upside down and icing the flat sides together.

I remember Grandma being very active at her Church. She was a member of the United Brethren Church and the Eastern Star. I think about her often during the holidays. So, it must have been ESP when I logged on to eBay just after Thanksgiving last year, and did a search for my grandmother’s name and “Olean,” because I found a church cookbook up for auction that she had contributed to almost 40 years ago. In it was a brown bread recipe with brown sugar, raisins, and nuts. I was thrilled. I’ll make my girls one of Grandma’s recipes for Christmas, I thought. Then, I groaned, remembering how it could turn out.

Surprisingly, not bad!

My daughters are grown now and have children of their own. Two of them only have a vague recollection of visiting their Great Grandmother in Olean, but they know all about her from my stories. This past Christmas, they had a special gift from Great-Grandma that I would like to share with you. You can make it anytime for sandwiches as a delicious substitute for whole wheat. It is not sweet:

Millie Chappell’s Brown Bread

1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
3 cups graham flour (order online, I can’t find it anywhere else)
4 tbsp. shortening (melted)
4 tbsp. molasses
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Add raisins, nuts, or dates as desired. I used raisins and pecans.

Mix all of the dry ingredients together, except the brown sugar. In a separate bowl, mix all of the liquid ingredients and the sugar. Combine them both making a batter. Grease two bread tins and fill them slightly more than half full with the batter. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for one hour. It makes two loaves… and all that jazz.

Yay! I’m Roxie Hart in the kitchen!

© 2010-13, Valenta, All rights reserved.

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