Rodney Dangerfield

So I ran into Rodney Dangerfield last night.

I had taken a wrong turn on the way to get my coat as I was leaving this this kind-of-tacky Brooklyn restaurant, half Katz, half Peter Luger’s, but modern prefab decor, fake plants, bright lighting.

Anyway, It was one of those dreams that was absolutely realistic.

Dangerfield was dining with some half dozen friends on either side of a long table with a white table cloth, and obviously most of the party had already left, as there were many empty chairs strewn about.
 
None of his companions were known to me, but they are all sort of Ray Liotta types, basic Brooklyn with business suits.
Most were a lot younger than me or old Rodney, who couldn’t have been nicer, and I was invited to sit down.
 
And even though I had already eaten there was an enormous spread that I was welcome to. He even had a little laptop or tablet that was running his Biography Channel bio that he would keep starting if someone came up to talk to him. A prince of a guy! I had many interesting talks with him in between his many well wishers and joking friends.
 
I thought it would cost me a fortune, but Rodney and one other guy split the whole enormous check and I was sent home with a bunch of deserts and an unopened beer bottle in my pocket. I decided to take a cab, which immediately got lost. And as we pulled over to figure out where we were, I woke up.
 
I got nothin’ but respect for that guy, I’ll tell ya.

Beefaroni Birthday – Birthday Weekend Part 4.

Beloved childhood comfort food leads to an annual ritual –
Beefaroni on my birthday

Beefaroni brithday treat onemanz.com

Updated 02/25/2019

Chef Boyardee is a brand of canned pasta products. But once upon a time Chef Boyardee was the head of the kitchen at the five-star Plaza Hotel. He is personally responsible for Americans associating “Italian food” with pasta and tomato sauce, and particularly spaghetti with meatballs.

Many of my earliest memories concern eatable entities, at least the fondest of them. From Play-Doh, which is rather bland, but very salty, to Funny Face, a competitor of Kool-Aid, which my mom would put in milk to trick me into drinking that calcium delivery device, I have vivid remembrances attached to many eating and drinking experiences.

My dimmest memory is a view from my high chair, looking across some sort of food and out the kitchen to the front door some 40 feet away. It hovers in a corner of my mind; where it’s dark, as if it is night and all the lights are off. There is a photo of me in that very seat on my 1st birthday. But I assume the remembered event came a bit later.

Childhood Favorites

When it comes to “real food,” there was my mother’s chili. Years later I sought out how she had made it, and was somewhat disappointed to learn it consisted of Campbell’s tomato soup with red beans, browned hamburger and about three pieces of raw onion per person. She didn’t even add the chili powder called for by the recipe on soup can.

Another favorite for me and my sister three years my junior was the macaroni and cheese made by our older sister when she would be babysitting us. Again, it proved a let down to learn it was simply boiled macaroni with a large brick of Velveeta melted throughout.

As my childhood comfort food pillars toppled one by one, only one has remained steadfast and forever satisfying. Chef Boyardee’s Beefaroni, part of this complete birthday feast.

Beefaroni brithday meal onemanz.com

Served in vintage Fiestaware!

2017’s Birthday Carbfest was just as grand.

2017 Beefaroni

As was 2019’s.

beefaroni birthday 2019

I have enjoyed Beefaroni on my birthday for years beyond count, rarely missing the opportunity, whether I have it for lunch, or supper, as we called dinner back in Ohio, or squeezing it in as a late night snack.

I do not now remember when Beefaroni entered my life. But I remember clearly splitting one 15 oz can with my little sister, on many occasions, after walking home from school for lunch. Now I often have two full cans just for me. But I cannot buy the large cans, as the consistency just isn’t the same. And even with the regular cans, I have to put a good dozen of them to my ear and give them a shake to find the two with the least amount of slosh. Otherwise the sauce is too soupy. OK, these days it is always too soupy. Sigh.

A Surprising Pedigree

I was not able to find any data concerning when it was actually invented. But the chef on the can really was a chef, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, in fact. It was the premiere hotel in the United States. And to provide some perspective, today rooms start at $825 a night.

Ettore Boiardi worked in restaurants in Italy near Bologna, starting at age eight, and then followed his brother over to America in the early 1900s, where he is reputed to have worked his way up in the Plaza’s kitchen to Head Chef.

He also oversaw two major dinners for President Woodrow Wilson, his second wedding, and a White House homecoming dinner for 2,000 World War I veterans.

At some point he anglicized his name to Hector Boyardee, and opened a restaurant in 1926, at Woodland Avenue and East 9th Street, in Cleveland Ohio.

Il Giardino d’Italia was both popular and influential in popularizing what we now think of as Italian food in America. As demand for his recipes grew, the Boyardee brothers opened a factory in Pennsylvania for their Bolognese-style dishes, which families could prepare at home. Spaghetti and meatballs soon became a national dish of America as well as Italy.

During World War II, the factory made rations for the U.S. Army, and returned to normal but increased production in peacetime, retaining all of its employees. But they had an added advantage: the vacuum-sealed can, and the machinery necessary to make it thanks to the War Department. And that is how just about every canned food you can think of came into being.

The company was eventually swallowed up by corporate giants, as family businesses usually are, but Chef Boyardee remained a figurehead well into the 1970s.

An Acquired Taste

A taste of the old country remains in Beefaroni, the humble carb and fat delivery device that remains every bit as good as it did when I was 8 years old.

I never liked canned pasta products, and still don’t with one important exception. And when the ingredients consist of hamburger, macaroni and sauce, the sauce matters a great deal. It can be any brand, they all have this same fakey orange color and are far too sugary. While tis true Beefaroni has its share of sugar, or actually corn syrup these days, it has always stood apart, with a tomato sauce that actually tastes (a lot) like the genuine article.

I know some of my preference for Beefaroni is related to a pleasant sense memory from my boyhood. But it really is good. And it is not all that bad for you, with less sugar than many grocery store products that claim to be healthy.

Everyone has their favorite comfort foods from their childhood, and others have certain birthday foods of which they never grow tired. What are yours?

Beefaroni can onemanz.com

~

Here is a commercial I still remember clearly from long ago:

~

 

Rome From Start to Finish – Monday Map

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

I’ll Say!

Monday Map – The History of Rome

A special birthday edition features an animated map that explores the entire history of Rome, from its earliest days as a kingdom, through the massive expansion during the Roman Republic, and on through Roman Empire, which split in two for its final tumultuous years.

Please expect to want to hit Pause and stop to look at certain moments of the timeline in detail!

I never grow tired of history or maps, and love it when they come together so very well.

Birthday Weekend – Part 3 – Comfort Food

So I go out to blow a bit of birthday money on some comfort food,

Since I am sick and all

I am proud of my restraint

I was going to get a pumpkin pie. All that vitamin A, you know.
 
But then I thought of ginger snaps, which would go well with tea.
 
And then I thought maybe some chocolate pudding, which I have not had in memory.
 
But then I saw the mini red velvet cupcakes, so I got those.
 
And the gingersnaps and the organic chocolate pudding.
 
I only got half a pumpkin pie.

Birthday Weekend – Part 2 – A Feast and a Plague

My annual Birthday Dinner took place at Congee Village

As it has for some 15 years

 It is always a good sign when an upscale Chinese restaurant is so crowded you can barely squeeze through the lobby and bar, and your party includes the only non-Chinese in sight.

While ordering, I asked if they had any fried pumpkin. He said, “No.” And then he said they have only one pumpkin dish, a rice casserole cooked in a pumpkin, but it takes 45 minutes. So we said, “No.”
 
After we were all stuffed until we could barely move, the pumpkin casserole arrived.
 
Missed were some of the longtime regulars, who had to cancel due to illness or traveling. But that allowed me to offer a seat for some favorite alternates, even if only one could make it on such short notice.
 
And everyone enjoyed themselves with much good cheer.
 
Except my roommate who arrived looking like death warmed over and clearly sailing into some sort of cold or flu virus.
 
He should have been home in bed, but both of my roommates are moving out to greener pastures and he wanted to tough it out for my sake and make the best of it.
 
Little did I know that the headache I had all that day wasn’t from the ham-fisted barber mentioned in my previous post. And just about the time I was heading to bed after midnight I felt the tight, painful cough starting deep in my chest.
 
I awoke before dawn with the severe chills and complete body aches, and spent Saturday shivering under many layers of clothes and covers, with a heating pad between my knees, begging for the sleep that the spiny headache would not allow.
 
But, a little after 10 PM it suddenly broke apart and was gone.
 
It was exactly like a severe 24 hour stomach bug, except for no stomach issues – thankfully. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
 
And now it has turned into a basic head and chest cold. But since the hurricane phase has passed, it will probably just be annoying while it runs its course.
 
It knocked down my household like dominoes. That one roommate was hit Friday evening, I was hit Saturday morning, and now my other roommate is sailing into the worst of it on Sunday. But at least she knows it only lasts one day, before becoming “a cold.”
 
The weirdest part is how food or drink with remotely any bitterness, like coffee or chocolate, tastes super bitter! Very weird.
 
But then no food is appealing. We have collectively gone through a LOT of eggs and orange juice, but not much else.
 
I still feel sick and tired, but compared to yesterday, that is ok with me.
.
.
Birthday feast pumpkin casserole Congee Village
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”

Birthday Weekend Part 1 – Haircut from Hell

My birthday is Monday.

And that means I get a whole weekend.

Birthday Weekend Part 1

Well… Here’s how my birthday weekend started.

Friday morning

I decided to splurge on a haircut, declaring it the last one I would pay for, as they have gotten up to $35 dollars in my neighborhood, which comes out to about $1 per hair. And I have decided to buy some of these new-tech cut-your-own-hair clippers.
 
I went to my barber and he wasn’t there. Instead there was a new fella, around 60, classic native Brooklynite accent, playing the most appalling sappy Autotune with a drum machine teenage love song channel, with constant variations on “I miss you.” or “Our love will last forever.”
 
I say, “Take the number 3 blade and just do it evenly all over.”
 
He takes these enormous, ancient clippers, puts on a long hard plastic cow catcher of several prongs, and proceeds to stab it into the center of my forehead with a thunk, before sliding it up over the top of my head.
 
He then repeats this technique so many times they begin to get a big red spot at the point of impact, just without a large vein runs up.
 
Never have I had a rougher, gruffer experience in a barber’s chair!
 
Not liking conflict, I decided to let him keep assaulting me, thinking it wouldn’t last much longer, and half expecting my roommate to pop out with a Candid Camera crew.
 
And then it was time for the smaller clippers and the more delicate work. This he performed with the blade that should’ve been changed six months ago. Have you ever tried to shave with a razor blade that so old it feels chunky, or like it has sharp, pointy teeth?
 
Well, this blade seemed to have a long single claw sticking out of it, which dug into my scalp over and over and over. I was truly wincing when he got behind my ears and he didn’t seem to notice.
 
Finally it was all done. He then took what looked like an oversized old-fashioned shaving brush with large nylon bristles that was full of talc. And he used it to pummel me again and again. I was surprised to not see those large bumps rise from the top of my head like a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
 
The amazing thing is how proud he was of his work, and clearly thought I should be too. He even pointed out how he specifically didn’t make it even overall, as I had requested, for some sort of aesthetic artistry I didn’t quite understand.
 
Once I got home, my roommate came in and said, “Nice haircut. Oh wait. They did do a very good job did they?”
 
That’s was putting it mildly.
 
I may have to fork out for one more haircut just so this isn’t the last one.
 
But wait there’s more… (To be continued.)

 

Talking Heads

Live from Rome, 1980, Talking Heads featuring Adrian Belew

Hypnotic, Exhilarating, and Far Too Long Ago

Talking Heads had been together for five years at the time this concert film was shot. There is as much time between this performance and today as between this performance and the Attack on Pearl Harbor.

The band’s sneak attack on conventional popular music ultimately changed the musical world order, as ripples of the post-Punk revolution were felt ever afterwards. It could be said this was Talking Heads at their peak, just before they took a hiatus and returned as a slicker, well-established music industry entity that appears in Johnathan Demme’s cinematic release Stop Making Sense.

By this time, the core members of the band were supplemented with many more human components that gelled into one of the most original and influential contemporary concert acts of their time. This included the exuberant anarchy of guitarist Adrian Belew, whose compelling fretboard antics continued to be imitated by other Talking Heads guitarists (and elsewhere) after he moved on to other musical horizons.

Happy 70th Birthday to Jerry Harrison!

 

Presidents Day – Monday Map

Presidents Day Map of all the birthplaces

Our Presidents of the United States

The entire bunch were born in but 21 of our 50 States

Fun Facts from the Washington Post

* Ohio is the birthplace of seven presidents, second only to Virginia’s eight. But, Ohio hasn’t elected a president since Warren Harding in 1920. And Harding didn’t even last a full term, dying in 1923. (Random Warren Harding factoid: His size 14 shoes were the largest of any president.)

* Texas’ two native-born presidents may not be who you think they are. Neither George H.W. Bush (Massachusetts) nor George W. Bush (Connecticut) were born in the Lone Star State. The two? Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower. (Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas.)

* Vermont is the smallest state with the biggest presidential punch as the birthplace of both Chester Arthur and Calvin Coolidge.

* California has produced only a single president — and it was Republican Richard Nixon.

The map is sadly out of date.