April 17th, 2014 — Stories of the 1940's and 1950's
It was Easter season and our local Five and Ten Cent Store, Ben Franklin’s, had received its annual shipment of baby chicks.
I raced to the store, sped across its long wooden aisles, past the dry goods, clothes, mops, detergents, and the toys, to the rear and the new arrivals. The peeps and smells of chicks and musty grain drew me to those adorable balls of fluff crammed in their high glass enclosure.
I stood on tiptoes to see them warming under the glow of soft yellow bulbs. Chicks scampered everywhere; in their water, in their feed and on each other. I purchased the two warmest, fluffiest and smartest chicks along with a bag of grain, and I rushed home.
I put them in a cardboard box carefully lined with newspaper, and located it behind the warm kitchen stove. I placed a bowl of water in one corner of the box and a bowl of feed in the other. The chicks were set.
Every afternoon, I hurried home from school to watch the cuddly balls bobbing and winding along on little legs and pointed toes. Despite squirming, they warmed to my touch. But all they seemed to do was eat, sleep and defecate…everywhere…on the paper, in their food, in their water and on each other.
And when out of the box, they went on the linoleum and sometimes in my lap. Changing the paper, cleaning the dishes and feeding them were annoying, but I accepted the responsibility. The chicks grew quickly. After Easter, my cousins tired of their two, so I appropriated them, and I now had four chicks and was buying five-pound bags of grain.
April 16th, 2014 — Wednesday's Wisdom
We love these…. simple…things that can make a difference
“One song can spark a moment.
One flower can wake the dream.
One tree can start a forest.
One bird can herald spring
One vote can change a nation.”
One life can make a difference. That difference can start with you.”
April 14th, 2014 — Minna's Favorite Recipes, Recipes
Here is a tasty recipe to add to your Lenten repertoire — or anytime! It’s from the Eating Well publication.
The dry white wine and Gruyere cheese give this fish casserole a rich flavor that belies its’ virtue of being low sodium. Topping the dish with seasoned whole-wheat breadcrumbs before baking adds a delicious crunch and fiber!
BAKED COD CASSEROLE
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 medium onions, very thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 ¼ pounds cod, cut into 4 pieces*
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme*
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ cups finely chopped whole-wheat country bread (2 slices)*
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup finely shredded Gruyere cheese*
1. Preheat oven to 400
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until just starting to soften, 5-7 minutes. Add wine, increase heat to high and cook, stirring often, until the wine is slightly reduced, 2-4 minutes.
3. Place cod pieces on the onions and sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper. Cover the pan tightly with foil; transfer to the oven and bake for 12 minutes.
4. Toss the bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, paprika and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Spread the bread mixture over the fish and top with the cheese. Bake, uncovered, until the fish is opaque in the center, about 10 minutes more. Serves 4
*TIPS: For variety, you can substitute almost any mild white fish.
I use McCormick’s Italian Seasonings blend.
I use whole wheat Panko bread crumbs – love the crunch!
You can substitute shredded Swiss cheese – but the Gruyere is delicious!
April 10th, 2014 — Writing
I had the opportunity to speak to my grandson Alec’s class about writing and of my book , “Growing Up Italian.”
It was a while ago, but the memory of how much fun it was came to mind today.
I had a marvelous time and was fortunate to receive this response from the teacher, Ms. Palumbo. Please click on the link below. My goal was to encourage them to write.
Hopefully, I succeeded with some or all.
April 7th, 2014 — Books, History, Neighborhood
The Sprague House Branch Library
It was a two story white bungalow indistinguishable from the others in the neighborhood; one that any one of us might have called home. Three cement steps led to the front door. There were windows (even cellar ones), weathered sides, a steep roof, houses close on both sides and an alley that led to the rear. But it was not just any neighborhood house. It was our library. And we did call it a home.
The Sprague House Branch Library on Armington Avenue in Providence was very welcoming, and once a week it was more than just going in to read a book or borrow one. It was the after school story hour with the librarian that I loved almost as much as I loved my former kindergarten teacher.
It was so good to have a library one block away, especially one that made me feel as if I were entering my own home. And being only two blocks from my elementary school, Academy, I stopped on many days after school.
I opened the door to a narrow, carpeted, dark hall with book laden shelves to the ceiling on each side. The books, so neatly stacked in rows, hugged the walls and extended out, making the path so tight that it was difficult to pass someone coming the other way. My fingers made a rat-ta-tat tat sound as I ran them along the hard covers. The musty smells of wood, oil, leaves and dampness reminded me of my cellar. I walked (ran on story hour day) down the narrow hallway and then bounded up a few more oily and creaky wooden stairs that led to a larger, more open room which had tables and a sign out desk. The tables smelled different, kind of like one of the big old neighborhood trees that I used to climb. The undersides of the tables had hard lumps of gum stuck to them (I swallowed my Double Bubble). Only a little light could filter through the side windows that were blocked by the nearby houses. There was a quiet, slow turning ceiling fan which was not enough to cool in the summer. Sitting at a desk near another door, maybe behind a glass, was the head librarian, but I paid little attention to her. I was looking for the one who told the stories.
On a usual day, I sat at one of the tables and found a book to read or to thumb through. It was difficult to be quiet, maybe the most difficult thing I ever had to do, especially when friends were nearby.
“Quiet please,” the head librarian would say. Her voice was so gentle, so soft, I suppose because she had white hair and peered over clear glasses. She was kinda nice I think, not frightening, so that’s why we were ready to resume our laughing and talking as soon as she went back to her desk. Sometimes the laughing was uncontrollable and, most of the time, I didn’t know why. Everything was funny…a look, a cough, an exaggerated sniffle, a girl with pigtails, a funny looking kid, a gas emission or a burp. There were those lucky guys who could burp repeatedly. What a great skill! Tears of uncontrollable laughter rolled down my cheeks as I buried my head in the table. On occasion the librarian tiptoed over and said, “I think it would be better if you were not in the library today.” She was so patient and kind.
On story day, things were different. There was no way I was going to misbehave. As I entered the main room I looked to the right just to be sure there would be a story hour. Relief! There would be a story hour! In the corner, a quieter place partially hidden by a shelf of books was a bunch of little chairs arranged like a half moon and, in front of them, was a large wooden chair. Our chairs were small but not too small. My feet touched the floor and I could put my elbows on the arm rests. I was the first to sit, and I watched as other kids entered and sat. We waited without saying a word. She entered. When I saw her, I leaned to the edge of my chair, ready to hear another story. She sat. Her hair was so pretty. She smiled and raised her eyebrows
“Good afternoon, children.” What a nice voice.
“Good afternoon, Miss____.”
“Are you ready for story hour?” Her face was soft. She did not wear glasses.
“Yes, Miss ____.”
“What would you like to hear today?” she folded her hands in her lap and crossed her legs.
Frozen, no one answered. We didn’t know what we wanted to hear, but she never failed. Her stories kept us glued to our seats because she took us to places of wonder, surprise and special endings with characters we wanted to be, or avoid.
Was Snow White as beautiful and as fair as the snow? How great it must have been to be a dwarf. And how would Rapunzel get out of that tower? Oh, what a happy ending. And the tiger chasing Sambo turned to butter? Great, because I was so frightened for Sambo. But no one frightened me more than the Giant that was chasing Jack and all for a goose who laid golden eggs! Oh boy was his mother mad when Jack showed her the beans! Three little pigs? A wolf that dressed like a grandmother? A boy whose nose grew when he lied?
When story hour ended, I went home thinking of nothing else; so pleased, so eager for the next week.
As the years went by, I outgrew story hour and the books outgrew the Sprague House Branch which closed, moved up the street and became the Mt. Pleasant Branch Library. Though there was no more story hour for me, not much else changed. There still were the books; great stories like “Deerslayer,” “Huckleberry Finn,” “Tom Sawyer,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Punt Formation” and “Lou Gehrig: Pride of the Yankees.” Nor did the rules change. No talking, no laughing, no gum, a fine for late returns. And when we broke the rules, that same gentle head librarian, Mrs. B___, who also moved to the new library, politely told us what she expected.
But there was one important thing so very different. I never saw the story hour librarian again. I heard that the story hour was held in the basement of the new library, but I never checked.
I was thinking of how important a role libraries have played in my life, a role that continues. What a wonderful resource, even today, when I asked the reference librarian for information about the Sprague House Branch Library, and overnight, I had an answer.
Our neighborhood library, replete with history and stories one block away, was an integral part of my life, introducing me to the love of books, story hour and the librarian. How very grateful I am.
April 3rd, 2014 — Guest Author
When we were selected for an ambush, we knew it was going to be a long and stressful night. There was no opting out. It was so difficult to sleep as we were constantly bothered by pesky mosquitoes, animals that crawled over us and, of course, the enemy. (Some marines feared snakes more than they feared the enemy).
Once we were assigned, we walked to our area that could be anywhere…near a path, a bridge, a hill or thick jungle where we were heavily camouflaged. The latter was my assignment for that night ambush.
We were sitting in this position for more than two hours when suddenly I heard the rustling of branches, strange whispering and the sound of metal objects clicking. We quietly readied our weapons and put the enemy in our sight. The corporal in charge selected me as the point marine to open fire when the enemy was in position, but only when he tapped me on the shoulder. The other members of my platoon were to open fire only after I expended my magazine. This would give us fire superiority, because while they were firing, my corporal and I were reloading to maintain a steady stream of rounds. This added an element of surprise to our attack.
I counted five enemy soldiers in the open walking down the path. They had heavy packs on their backs and were carrying automatic weapons. They looked like North Vietnamese Regular Army soldiers. We also heard more troops adjacent to their position walking through the jungle. How many? We could not tell and we had no time to count.
I began to sweat and shake as I waited for the corporal to tap my shoulder to begin the kill. I started to take the slack off my trigger and was ready. One enemy soldier went by our position. No tap from the corporal. I became very anxious as two more passed by. No tap! Then all of them passed. Again, no tap on my shoulder. Once they were out of range, I turned and whispered, “What the F—-!!!! What happened? Why did you not tap me?”
Looking more frightened than all of us put together, he said, “I panicked. I could not do it.”
“You could have gotten us killed!” I screamed.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, so sorry.” It was too late for his apology. We were disappointed with his lack of leadership and for putting us in danger. I had my own plan.
If we were confronted with another enemy sighting, I was not going to wait for a tap on the shoulder. I so informed the others. Because they trusted me, they agreed. So did the corporal.
When we went back to camp in the morning and walked by our commander’s tent, he said, “Good morning. Did you spot any South Korean Marines, our allies, during the night? They were assigned to patrol the same area where you were stationed.”
My corporal quickly responded, “No sir, it was all quiet.” We looked at each other, incredulously, and continued to our area to get some sleep. He apologized again, and we forgave him for, after all, he unintentionally saved the lives of those men and possibly ours.
Friendly fire might have done us all in. My guardian angel must have whispered in his ear and told him not to tap my shoulder.
We never went on patrol or ambush with him again, because he later told our sergeant what had happened. He was re-assigned to a non-combative position. I guess we had to be thankful.
My angel saved many.
March 31st, 2014 — Humor
My mother could be a humorous trip or an embarrassing torch. She would say anything, anytime, jump around, dance, sing or whatever. Though she had a fertile mind, sometime there was no governor, no stop point, no thought to a consequence no matter how frightening.
On this day, her nonstop thought was fun, albeit a bit embarrassing.
There were occasions when I had to fit a relative in to my busy practice. This day it was my aunt. She had the flu.
When she came for the visit, of course my mother and their two nieces, in their seventies, came along. They were going out for coffee after the visit… anything for a Newport Creamery coffee and chat.
After I saw my aunt, I went out to my secretary’s desk where all of them were chatting with my secretary.
I was behind and although they wanted to talk even more with me, I had to go to the examine room to see my next patient, her first visit. I heated to be late.
“I’ll see you guys. I gotta go.”
“Edward,” said my mother, “Would you believe I love you.”
“Yeah, yeah, Mom, I do. See ya.”
I entered the exam room, introduced myself to the patient and sat to take her history. My seat was next to the door. At that moment, I heard a bang, bang, bang on the door. I leaned left and opened it backhanded. I was stunned. It was my mother banging the door with her cane.
“Mom, what do you want? I whispered”
“I have to talk to you.”
Sensing something urgent, I got up and went out while keeping my hand on the door handle. The door remained slightly open. “What is it?”
“Your hair is too short.”
“You’re kidding. That’s why you banged on the door. To tell me my hair is too short.”
“Yes. You should cut it like Regis Philbin’s.”
“Mom, he has a toupee.”
She raised her cane. “No he doesn’t! He does not!” At that point I slinked back into the exam room chair, my face now beet red.
“It’s OK,” said the patient. “I understand.”
Mom’s team went for coffee.
March 27th, 2014 — Stories of the 1940's and 1950's
In high school, Bob introduced me to Chet Baker and Dave Brubeck. Their music was different. It was cool. I tried to be cool like those guys, but I just didn’t make it.
High school was a challenge. I was trying to get comfortable by looking older, fixing my hair, my sweater, my shirt, my pants. I was always fixing. It seemed a thing to do. Should I wear a shirt under my sweater? Or just the sweater? And is a red one cool? How about a white T- shirt under the red? Which was cooler? I fixed my hair and squeezed my pimples. I tried Clearasil. I wanted to fit in. I had a beer.
But it wasn’t easy. It took me a long time to figure out that everyone was trying to fit in.
Brubeck was cool
baker was cool
Kool Aid was cool
Who else was cool?
I tried to be what it was.
March 24th, 2014 — Books
I heard from a number of you after I wrote of what books do for me and how collections of them, if saved, will ‘eat you out of house and home’. My Dad loved that phrase as Peter and I made our regular after dinner trips to the refrigerator( that’s for another story).
In the December 15, 2013 edition of the Providence Journal, there was a story entitled “Little Free Library offers books on Street,” by Karen Lee Ziner. Diane and I loved it.
She wrote of people who built little boxes mounted to a pole in front of their houses.
There they placed a one shelf library of their books with an invitation to “Take a book, leave a book.”
It was, as Karen wrote, a “Little Free Library.” What a great idea. And now there is a movement thereof…. At least 12,000 to 15,000 already established around the country…. No fines, no cards, open 24/7… just trusting people who love books.
You can make your own box or purchase one from the
The picture below is from the Little Free Library web site
You can even register your home front library.
What a great way to stay connected to books… real books that you can hold and read with a light over your shoulder; just my style.
Try it. We will.
It is a great idea.
March 20th, 2014 — Family
Did you watch TV in front of tray table; that wonderful functional table that folded easily, fit into a corner and was quickly accessible.
Peter and I watched Howdy Doody, The Lone Ranger, Range Rider and Superman in front of our tables. They were favorites at supper time and our parents were lenient because TV was novel, exciting and unique.
Ah yes, the tray table. Our personal table, collapsible, portable and all-purpose… made for watching television. Why we even had a rack for them in the corner of the TV room. We had four.
The metal legs perfectly accommodated the grips on the underside of the tray, never to fail unless, of course, Peter and I decided to wrestle.
Then it was a mess.
So… did you have a tray table?
March 17th, 2014 — Rome, Travel
I love Adam Gopnick’s writing. His article in the January 13, 2014 New Yorker, Pickpockets and Paranoia in France, reminded me of the time my Dad had his pocket picked in Rome.
Twenty five years ago, we visited our daughter, Jennifer, who was doing a semester in Rome. We started with a week in the countryside of Todi, a place my parents loved because it reminded them of the stories their immigrant parents told of the “old country.”
After the week, we were confident enough to take the train to Rome for a second week. When we got off the train, I thought it might be a good idea to experience the bus to our hotel, Torre Argentina.
The bus was so crowded that Dad and I stood while Mom, Diane and Jennifer found seats.
As the bus rumbled, a lady said to me, “That man just had his pocket picked by that kid.”
I saw a scruffy, disheveled, filthy kid, maybe eight or nine, near Dad, so I immediately grabbed him by his hair and pulled. He wailed. It didn’t bother me nor any of the other passengers as no one looked up.
Mom, Diane and Jennifer were talking.
I looked to Dad. “Dad, do you have your money?”
He tapped his shirt pocket. “Yep, I do. It’s right here.” He tapped again. Wailing from the kid.
“Are you sure?” More wailing, even louder. Now, the kid’s nose was running. Ugh.
“Yes,” he replied, tapping again. “It’s right here.” He was confident.
“OK.” I threw the wailing ragamuffin off the bus.
“Wait,” Dad said. “ Uh, oh. I had some money in this pants pocket also. It’s gone.”
“Dammit. The kid is gone.”
‘No matter,” someone said. “They hand it off the bus as soon as they get it.”
Rome?? No matter. It was a magnificent time and Dad was only 10,000 lira short.
March 13th, 2014 — Stories of the 1940's and 1950's
The Ice Man stopped his truck at the curb—dripping water on hot days from the melting blocks of ice. Opening the door, he stepped down from the running board and shuffled to the rear. He threw a leather protector onto his back and, lifting a pair of tongs off a hook, he grabbed a thick block of ice, slung it up and over onto his shoulder and, body rounded by its weight, carried it up the stairs. With drops of water splashing off the heels of his wrinkled, water logged boots that squeaked as if he were walking in the snow, he clomped up the stairs. “Ice man, ice man here.”
The Fish Man was a regular Friday visitor with his truck laden with fresh fish. He blew a wrinkled and dented mouth horn to announce his arrival. If anyone was waiting, he ground his truck to a halt, its engine rumbling idly. Gruff and direct, he growled with a simultaneous cough from the depths of his lungs, “Arahhaha…Duz ya motha’ want any fish?”
“Yes, a pound of filet.” He weighed the fish on a scale rocking on its hook and then wrapped it in newspaper.
“Here ya go, son. Anythin’ else? No. OK, fifty cents.” And off he went, blowing his horn, a puff of smoke from the exhaust, the smell of fish in the air and water dripping from the rear of his truck.
Joe the Ragman was an unshaven, musty smelling, gnome-like character who wore a long gray, tattered coat buttoned at the top, and a small visored matching hat. His horse drawn cart was laden with stacks of rags that smelled of the dampness of a cellar. Squeaky wheels carried it down the street. His nasal twang… “Rrraggs, rrraggs,” gurgled in a voice almost too low to be heard.
“Up here, up here,” the residents responded from their windows. And up the stairs he went, plodding on worn dirty boots, empty satchel over his shoulder, gathering rags along his way.
One day, while he was away from his horse, one of the older boys said, “I’m gonna ride that baby.”
“You’re crazy. What do you mean?”
“I’m gonna ride her.”
He stepped up to the seat of the wagon, stood on the seat and jumped on the back of Joe’s dirty white, droopy horse. She might have been a nag when she pulled the cart, but not so when she was jumped. Her eyes widened, her ears stood up, she raised her head, reared up on her hind legs, threw Eddie off and came crashing down with powerful hooves just missing his head as he rolled away. Sometimes we hitched a ride on the back of the wagon, but the memory of a crazy nag, Joe’s mumble and a few snaps of his whip warded us off.
The Ice Cream Man was a fragile, wiry, quick guy who drove the Humpty Dumpty panel truck and sold ice cream treats from a freezer tucked into the rear. It looked like an armored car. His timing after supper was perfect. He sold the best Drumsticks, Popsicles and Creamsicles ever and then off he hurried to his next stop.
The Loutit Laundry man picked up the dirty clothes, loaded them in to his large brown truck and a week later returned a neat package of clean clothes wrapped in brown paper.
The Cushman Bakery man, neatly dressed in a tan-striped shirt and brown pants, sold the best cakes from the back of his truck, my favorite the chocolate layer.
The milkman gave us chunks of ice to suck on hot days. Always in a hurry, he ran with his basket of milk and eggs, out the open passenger side door, in and out of the houses, up and down, carrying full bottles on the way in, empties on the way out.
The Clothing Man came every few weeks driving an old Buick with the rear seat and trunk packed with suits, shirts, ties, coats and mounds of other stuff. Always dressed in a three piece suit, hair slicked back (Brylcream? or Vitalis?), he smiled little and never spoke.
And there was a man who fixed umbrellas and one who sharpened knives and another who sold vegetables.
These were the men who made a regular appearance, all of them players in the orchestra of my neighborhood’s everyday life.
March 12th, 2014 — Wednesday's Wisdom
Diane and I love this quote… one you should read over and over. And… think about it.
“With a change of mind you can change your life”
— Deepak Chopra
March 10th, 2014 — Neighborhood, Stories of the 1940's and 1950's
The peddlers who came to our neighborhood became part of our families; men to be trusted and who were as stable presences as the fig tree or the fences in the sandlot. They were the peddlers who brought our streets to life every day.
The Waffle Man was wore a white apron and tall white hat tipped to the side. He drove a red truck with smooth round fenders and small wheels. A wooden sign across the top read “Waffles.” After parking it close to the curb, he arose from his low seat and stepped up to the raised rear platform, taking his place behind his waffle grilles. We ran to the truck. As he slid open a window, the aroma of oil and frying dough drifted out. “Yes?” We chirped like baby robins…“Two waffles. I’ll take three. Just one for me. Extra powdered sugar for me, please.”
By pulling myself up on the window frame, I could see him making the waffles. He dipped his ladle into the creamy mix, poured it onto a corrugated machine, closed the lid and waited. A puff of steam hissed from its sides. In a moment that seemed an eternity, the golden-brown waffles, each a perfect rectangle with small, indented squares were done. He placed them on waxed paper that wrinkled from the heat of the waffle and, with a wave of a dented tin can, dressed each of them with snow-white sugar powder. As he opened the window, the heat of the griddle wafted down to us. He handed our waffles to us with the care of a surgeon. I reached into my pocket for ten cents and then bit into the soft warmed treat, savoring the slight crunch of the waffle, eating slowly, licking the sugar off my fingers when I finished.
….to be continued….
March 6th, 2014 — Education
Rome was built on seven hills. Do you know them? They are:
And so too was the the city in which I was born, Providence, RI, built on seven hills. They are:
Prospect or College Hill
Tockwotten Hill at Fox Point
Federal Hill (My Mom and Dad were born here)
Christian Hill at Hoyle Square ( junction of Cranston and Westminster Streets)
Weybosset Hill, at lower end of Weybosset Street. Weybosset Hill was leveled in the early 1880s to construct the Turks Head Building.
My love of Providence and things Italian was destined.
March 3rd, 2014 — Guest Author, Humor
I completed my Army service in Germany and returned home to Providence in late 1964. My wife Jeanne remained in Rhode Island after we were married earlier in the year. Jeanne purchased a three year old 1961 Renault Dauphine for transportation to her LPN job at RI Hospital.
Upon my return, I got a job as a chemist in Massachusetts, so I inherited the Dauphine for my travel. Little did I know I would become its chief mechanic.
As with many European imports, I quickly learned that the car needed frequent maintenance, and I had to find the parts! Off to the junk yards I went. I found a yard that had three near-complete 1961 black Renault Dauphines. This should have been an omen that our car was a lemon. Who would leave a full car in the junk yard?
My first order of business was to replace the left front fender crushed by a driver who ran a red light. For ten dollars I learned to remove a fender from a junked car and replace ours. Imagine. Ten dollars and I did it.
It continued for years, I visited the yard for tires, generators, starters and other miscellaneous parts. I was vexed in never finding the emergency brake cable that broke so many times. The few Renault dealers in the area could not keep the defective part in stock… a major design defect.
One winter I had no heat because of a clogged radiator. At a mechanic’s recommendation, I had to remove the radiator and boil it in a large pan of water for fifteen minutes to get the junk out. Jean and I did that in our kitchen. It worked!
One day the motor was booming because the muffler was gone… broken… no surprise, I guess. The young man at a local shop, having never seen the underside of “The Dauphine” said I needed to replace a pipe at the rear end.
“Uhhh, the motors at the rear end,” I said. The muffler and the pipe are one piece.”
“We don’t have those,” he said with a perplexed look on his greasy face. Undaunted, I fought on.
Someone introduced me to the J C Whitney Co. parts catalog. God bless him. They had the muffler! For $9.95 plus shipping we had it, and I installed it with ease.
The day finally came when we decided to send our Renault Dauphine to the parts cemetery to rest alongside the other Renaults. It would be there for another Dauphine lover one day. But we had had it with foreign cars.
From that day on, we bought American made, parts accessible and mechanic friendly cars.
I learned a lot… how to fix a car, save money, spot a lemon and never do it again.
February 27th, 2014 — Guest Author
I was on my way back to Khe Sahn after spending 5 days in Japan for R&R. We changed planes in Da Nang and after 30 minutes, we encountered severe rain and turbulence.
The plane was bouncing all over the place. Fortunately we were strapped in with double cross shoulder straps. I clutched (again) the prayer beads in my pocket and prayed, “Please God, don’t make this my last day on earth. Please protect us.”
We landed the plane at the nearest base a few miles away. As we approached the small airstrip, the plane shifted from side to side. We touched down on the mud filled airway and as we did, the plane slid sideways, spinning out of control. I squeezed the beads.
The right wing struck a hanger and as the landing gear buckled, the plane suddenly shifted to the right and flipped onto its side. I took the beads out of my pocket… again. Marines might be tough but they were not trained for this.
I heard men scream, “Oh my God. Sweet Jesus. Oh my God! Sweet Jesus!”
We miraculously came to a stop and evacuated the plane just before it blew. We were safe, not one of us hurt. We looked at each other, dazed; making sure everyone alive and well.
“Thank you, God. Thank you, Captain. Job well done.”
Again, I asked myself why. Another lucky event? Or did the angel hear my prayers and guide our pilot and the plane to safety?
I never told my parents or friends about these incidents in my letters. I did not want to frighten them. Rather, I told them that I missed them, that I was well, and that I would be home soon; all the things for which I yearned and prayed.
February 24th, 2014 — Minna's Favorite Recipes, Recipes
We had a nice crop of winter tomatoes going through December and into January, half-a-dozen plants with a load of green tomatoes (I was late planting) and stringbeans, too. Then the local prognosticators of atmospheric conditions commenced: “Wrap your outside faucets; Bring in your pets; Cover your plants; the temperature is going to fall below thirty degrees and it may last for a couple of hours”.
The sky is falling; the sky is falling!
Understand, my Green Thumbed Friends of the Northern persuasion, we live in South Texas, on Galveston Bay. Our last freeze of any consequence was back in “ought six”, as we old timers like to say. C’mon, we’ve got lemon trees. Ask Pete! And sweet, not Del Monte!
Well (said slowly and sounds like “Whelp”), I didn’t pay much mind to those often wrong, no account, silver tongued devils… and damn if they weren’t right, finally.
Now, I didn’t disregard the knuckleheads completely; I’m crazy, not stupid. So about 2130 (that’s 9:30 for you non-nautical types) as the temp fell to 32 degrees, I moved my warm, sittin’ in front of the fire, butt outdoors to pick tomatoes. To hell with the beans! Which brings us to the cookin’ part of the story.
I’ve got a mess-o-green tomatoes and almost no idea what to do with them. Every Italian guy can cook; thinks he can cook even if he can’t boil water or he has an inferiority complex. Kitchen envy! I can cook! And I can read, too, with some comprehension and memory.
One of Dr Ed’s blogs had Minna’s favorite recipes using green tomatoes. I found it: Abruzzo Green Tomato Pasta.
Not that hard to do: tomatoes, I got; garlic, are you kiddin’, fresh parsley, the freeze didn’t’ affect it, got the basil though, back to the frozen; olive oil; baking soda (?); some linguine and a couple of martinis for the cook. No need to go to the market except for some fresh spinach and knock-off Italian bread (no bakeries here like you guys have, Crugnale’s, et alia). Set the table, serve a simple Italian dinner, pour a glass of wine (red or white? After the martinis, who cares).
Lori loved it!
Thanks Ed and Minna!
February 20th, 2014 — Humor
My mother was well into fitness long before the craze. When we were children, we could remember Mom walking, sometimes running, to work four miles away. She did floor exercises in the living room…deep knee bends, back stretches, leg crossovers, etc.
Aunt Vera and Mom
She had a saying now repeated often by her children and grandchildren, “Don’t get a belly,” which of course warned us to be ever watchful of getting fat.
The phrase took even more meaning when I asked her to answer some questions for me. I gave her a book loaded with such questions as:
“What is your first memory?”
What was your first school?”
What was your favorite toy?”
Who was your first girlfriend? Boyfriend?”
How did you meet Dad?”
She wrote and wrote, and we are fortunate to have a book replete with her recollections.
One day, as I was strumming through the book, she stunned me.
“You know,” she rattled on, Vera (her sister) and I took Milk of Magnesia before we went to dances.” I looked up, stared at her for a moment and replied,
“Milk of Magnesia? You took Milk of Magnesia. Why”
“So we would go to the bathroom and have flat bellies.”
“You mean the bathroom because you had diarrhea?”
“Yeah, oh sure. Lots.”
“Why flat bellies?”
“To look good for the guys.”
I was incredulous. They were taking magnesia in the ‘20’s to make themselves more attractive to men. So they could have “flat bellies.”
“Mom, today they might consider that an eating disorder.”
“What do you mean? We ate. We just did it once a week for the dances so our bellies would be flat.”
I sat motionless, at first unbelieving, and then laughing.
“Mom and Aunt Vera purged themselves to be more attractive. Can you believe it?”
Mom died art 94.
“Don’t get a belly,” Mom would say.
February 17th, 2014 — Food, Minna's Favorite Recipes, Recipes
Yes, I know; NOT ITALIAN! However, this is a delicious change of pace breakfast dish (or lunch or dinner – why not?). It’s from “Cooking from a Country Farmhouse” by
Susan Wyler; this book has many wonderfully tasty but not fussy dishes.
You can make this with leftover turkey, or a poached turkey breast. This recipe also works as well with leftover cooked chicken. 4 Servings
4 medium potatoes, about 1¼ pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups diced cooked turkey
1 cup Tangy Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows) or use your favorite bottled brand
4 eggs (optional)
1. If you have leftover potatoes, by all means use them. If not, place the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Continue to boil over moderately high heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender throughout. Drain and cool, and cut into ½ inch dice.
2. In a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook over moderately high heat, stirring often, until they soften, about 3 minutes. Add potatoes, reduce heat to moderate, and cook, turning occasionally with a spatula, until both the onions and potatoes are lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper.
3. Add the turkey to the skillet and cook, turning with the spatula, until heated through and some pieces are crispy around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the barbecue sauce and cook, turning, until mixed through and heated.
4. Serve the hash either as is or as follows: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make 4 equidistant nests on top of the hash with a large spoon; drop an egg into each indentation and set the skillet in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the eggs are set and the hash is slightly browned on top.