Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pake Two: The Sequel

Those with functional memories may recall the recent posting on the topic of pake.

I am pleased to report that a pake was successfully constructed and consumed in our household over the holidays, and after initial skepticism, even the initial skeptics were won over. (The initial skeptics - you know who you are - are forgiven for their tendency to treat me like a dolt and tell me how to do everything, even though they had the exact same amount of pake experience I had going in - zero. I will concede that I left out the important step of placing a baking sheet under the pie tin, and received some needed support when there was a blossom of smoke in the kitchen - which turned out to be not the only smoke-filled house episode of the holidays so far, but that is perhaps another story for another time.) It should also be pointed out that my pake did not look anything like the photo I used in the initial post. That photo, according to one of the initial skeptics, was "gross."

So again with credit to the Amstrong and Getty radio show on KNEW-AM, here's the recipe, with a minor adjustment or two based on my now extensive experience:

Cranberry Pake (Pie+Cake)

Prepare your favorite pie crust to fit a 9-inch pie pan. Place in pan, flute edges, and leave unbaked.

Cranberry Layer:
3 cups fresh whole cranberries, rinsed and drained
½ cup sugar
½ cup chopped pecans (I might up this to a full cup next time)
Mix all ingredients and place in unbaked crust.

Cake Layer:
¾ cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour and mix thoroughly. Dollop the mixture by spoonfuls over the cranberry layer and smooth the top with a spatula.

Place the pake on a baking sheet to catch drips while baking. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees or until the top is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream.

So there you go. I am sure you will have as much enjoyment as I had saying "pake" over and over, to the point of fully annoying the initial skeptics. I will also invite you to engage liberally in the making of such rollicking puns as "that takes the pake!" and "let them eat pake" and "you can't have your pake and eat it, too" and "if I knew you were coming I'd a baked a pake" etc. Such hilarity! Stop it, my sides are splitting!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Present

Oh, the glorious anticipation of it all! Lying in bed knowing there was some kind of magic going on in the night, that when you woke in the morning there would be a passel of presents under the tree, that Santa would have made his visit. There was no doubt that the big day was at hand, since we went to bed having heard the local weatherman report that NORAD was tracking an object flying south from the North Pole!

I you were smart you would make sure mom and dad thought you still believed long after you didn't anymore. That would insure that the presents kept coming. Why mess up good thing? But eventually the gravy train would run out, and the littler kids were getting all the good stuff and no one knew what to buy for the awkward adolescent.

Before you know it, you've got kids of your own and you're re-creating old family traditions, or making new ones of your own. Nobody knows what NORAD is anymore, but you can live chat with Santa or text message the elves. The absolute necessity of rushing out of bed at the crack of dawn to see what Santa has delivered suddenly seems so absolutely unnecessary - but you suck it up and try to put a smile on your face even if you've only had 4 hours of sleep.

And then you blink and your kids are grown and have kids of their own, and it's Christmas Day again. Kids everywhere are tearing into miles of wrapping paper and parents are shooting miles of video. There a palpable feel of love and longing in the air. If you are lucky enough to hear a bird singing at sunrise and there's a bright blue sky and a houseful of family you start to think you've figured it out after all.

Merry Christmas you wonderful old Building and Loan...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Being a 7 year-old Santa

Christmas is like Asian food - you can get sweet and sour in the same bite. And you stuff yourself with festivity, but find you are hungry for more just an hour later. And you get a choice of steamed or fried rice. I guess that doesn't apply to Christmas so much. Let's move on from the analogy.

Christmas of 1967 I was in the second grade at Stapleton School. I got a sweet and sour taste that year, all because of the Christmas production that was cooked up. It was a little play with Santa and elves and kids getting toys. There were some songs to be sung, and it was all your basic elementary school effort, to be performed for the parents. I was eager to be part of the chorus that would be featured in this masterwork - but one day the teacher called me aside and asked if I would play Santa Claus. I didn't feel like I could say no, and was devastated that I wouldn't be in the chorus. I cried and said to the teacher "You only want me to be Santa because I'm fat." And she said, "No! We want you to be Santa because you're fat AND you're a ham!" That might not be a verbatim quote, but it was something like that.

As it turned out, I discovered the depth of my ham-osity that year. A few days after I was cast in this critical role, she called me up to the front of the classroom while everyone was cutting and pasting on some crappy art project, and two teachers whipped out some white greasepaint and started experimenting on my face, seeing if they could draw on a mustache and bushy eyebrows. When they were tickled at the result, I was compelled to turn around and show it off to the whole class, and got a big laugh. My hambone grew three sizes that day.

So that's me in the photo. You can see that I was not only portly and jolly (but hell, there is some padding in there, I wasn't THAT fat) I also towered over my classmates, being an early bloomer and all.

The Christmas play was a big hit, and we toured through the Catskills, polished it in New Haven and opened on Broadway in the spring of 1968. Ha! Got you there! Just kidding, we didn't really go to Broadway! But I learned some important things that year:
  • People who are trim are never asked to play Santa. Deal with it.
  • You can neutralize the little rat elf who's trying to steal the scene with his cute dimples with some simple upstaging and stepping on his lines with a hearty ho ho ho.
  • Humiliating yourself in return for a laugh is a fair trade.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Yuletide tales of days gone by

Christmas 1981 we were young and wild and crazy in love. We lived on the third floor of the Olivia Apartments on 4th and Moffet - classic old building with a tile lobby that made me feel like we were cosmopolitan. The meekest kid from my grade school lived down on the first floor. By now he had a long beard and a long coat and a drug habit. On the floor above us was a girl who had a bad reputation from high school. I don't know if she deserved it or not. I felt like I was becoming an adult, working a job and paying rent - a rent than ran $110 a month, because this was one of the nicer apartments in town. No problem, because I believe I was grossing more than $10k per annum - major moolah, in my mind, not too shabby. But that big money flowed through me like shit through a goose, always living with champagne taste on a beer budget, as Daddy would have said. No problem, because when we ran out of cash we'd just have popcorn for dinner a couple of nights. You don't need much when you're young and in love.

We bought as much Christmas tree as we could afford, but it looked squat under those high ceilings. I remember buying an ornament or two from an overpriced gift shop on Main Street (next door to the Closet, the Attic and the Dud's Shop, for those who know their Joplin geography) and we decorated our chunky tree. We added some strings of popcorn, since there was always some left over. All in all, we did a good job of making a sincere little Christmas in our sophisticated downtown world, playing at being adults. The highlight was opening gifts on Christmas morning, when the future Mrs. Blogger saw the delicate watch I had found for her delicate little wrist (from Newton's, 5th and Main) and she uttered the immortal line, "Oh, honey, a Bulova!" I knew I had scored. I think it cost $50 in 1981 - the equivalent today of $1,743,587.00 or something close to that.

I procrastinated on getting rid of the Christmas tree so long it became a running joke. Around the end of February it was so dry I snapped off the branches and just rolled them between my palms until they turned to dust. We left the trunk of the tree in the tree holder and used it to hang our car keys on. I think it stayed with us until we moved out in the summer of 1982.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Pake: An Answer to All Our Prayers?

We interrupt the planned "Christmas memories" today for this late breaking news:

There's always so much bad news and negativosity these days, it's reassuring when you become aware of something exciting and new - in fact, it's inspiring to learn that the great American spirit of inventiveness lives on. I refer here to the culinary break through of the decade - pake.

Pake is a combination of pie + cake. (Artists' rendition of what a pake might look like at left. Pronounce it like "cake" not like Japanese rice wine.) Why did it take so long for someone to come up with this heavenly creation? This forever solves that perplexing question at potlucks and holiday family gatherings: "Which would you like, pie or cake?" My usual answer is "a little bit of both," which of course is a lie because I never want a "little bit," I want a boatload of both. If pake takes the world by storm as I expect, no longer will I need to humble myself.

I heard about pake from the morning show guys I listen to (Armstrong and Getty on KNEW-AM) and I have to admit I haven't eaten it yet, but I did drool all over the recipe as I read it, so I think it will be good. More later after a run through in test kitchens.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Seems like he hated it

Ahhh, Christmas memories.
  • Gingerbread houses, sugar-covered cookies, and an orange in the bottom of your stocking.
  • Ornaments made from macaroni, tinsel wrapped around the roller on the vacuum, and always some fricking walnuts in the bottom of my stocking.
  • Getting the toy you really wanted, getting a cheaper version of the toy you really wanted, not getting anything you really wanted.
  • Getting clothes, getting clothes that are butt ugly, getting clothes that don't fit.
Ah Christmas, sweet Christmas! Hope springs eternal!

Of all the thoughts that visit me like Marley's ghosts this time of year, one memory of Christmas stands out above them all - how my dad hated the whole thing.

Maybe there was a time when he was younger, before I was born, when he got some joy from the rituals. But by the time I was old enough to know what was going on he was in his late 40s and pretty fed up with all of it. It wasn't any of that cutesy Darrin McGavin in "Christmas Story" annoyance, or "damn these lights are tangled and this is all such a hassle" fussiness - it seemed to me more like an abiding hate-hate relationship with the whole holiday.

First you had the whole Christmas tree routine. Here you had a man who had planted 5 acres of pine trees on his property, mainly because I think he liked the way they looked out there in the woods, and he was supposed to go to the Thriftway and pay $10 for some pine tree from Oregon or someplace that was probably on a truck for three weeks and was a dried-out fire trap, and bring that thing right into the house and stand it up next to the wood stove. The logic of this activity was lost on a man who had a lifelong fear of fire - a fear that I believe originated in his childhood when he and his brothers caught a garage on fire. I don't think he was very old at that time, and it seems to have left a lasting impression. So while I reveled in the bliss of getting a Christmas tree, all he could see was the house going up in flames.

And then there was the whole gift giving component. Daddy was not a man who hesitated to give a gift, but like a lot of us I think he resented the proposition that there was a specific time when it was required. I know he had no use for the growing consumer culture, the buying of things that you really didn't need. I can't recall a time when he ever "went shopping" in the sense of the phrase as we use it today. His "shopping trips" were to May's for wine and whisky, to Carlson's for some work gloves. Somewhere he bought boots for work, and now and then some Bic fine-point pens, black ink, and as far as I can remember, very little else. (Later in life he did become a fairly avid consumer of second-hand golf clubs and "experienced" golf balls, no doubt making the rounds of rummage sales.) He was all about having just what you need, keeping it forever, getting the very last use out of it. Spending a lot of money on things that would be useless beyond a momentary thrill was a repugnant idea to him.

He was no Scrooge - he loved having the family together - but the kind of Christmas that everyone else was trying to have was a foreign concept to him. Maybe he had seen too much of the real world to invest in fantasy and sentimentality.

Hey kids, more sparkling Christmas memories coming up right here! Don't miss a single installment!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Botox burrito, anyone?

Reuters news 10/17/07 (Berlin)

Germany, Mexico and Austria were world's top three searchers of the word "Hitler" while "Nazi" scored the most hits in Chile, Australia and the United Kingdom, data from 2004 to the present retrievable on the "Google Trends" Web site showed.

Chile also came in first place searching for the word "gay", followed by Mexico and Colombia.

Our perpetual American self hate leads us to assume that we are the most screwed up people on the planet. But I nominate instead, Chile-ers! Chile-ites! People from Chile! The nation most likely to Google the words "Nazi" and "gay" - now that's whack. (Needing empirical proof, I Googled "Nazi gay" and my top hit led me to "Scott Lively is co-author of The Pink Swastika: Homosexuals and the Nazi Party (Keizer, Oregon: Founders Publishing Company, 1995)." Do you think there are a lot of Chile-ites who are working on their Master's Thesis in Sociology?) (I also Googled "Nazi gay Chile" - nothing good there - so tried "Nazi gay green chile" - got some good recipes that way - then went to "gay hitler" which led to to the MySpace page of a guy? called Zombie Lesbian Cannibal Hitler where I retrieved the lovely illustration now enhancing this item. Ain't it a wonderful diverse, twisted, mocking, people-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands world we live in?)

But perhaps I digress?

The central thought here is that one can gain a certain insight into the world simply by reviewing what words and terms have been searched for, whether by an individual or by a group. For example, this same Reuters new item tells us the USandA comes in highly ranked in searching for these words and terms:
  • Hangover (understandable)
  • Burrito (greater knowledge a necessity)
  • Iraq (still trying to figure out where it is)
  • Love (ah, ain't that sweet?)
  • Tom Cruise (he'd make a great gay Hitler)
  • Botox (makes sense)
  • Car bomb (now I'm nervous)
  • Marijuana ("Dude, let's get ripped and Google some weed!")
Who are the people most likely to Google "David Beckham"? Venezuelans
Who are the people most likely to Google "Britney Spears"? Mexicans
Who are the people most likely to Google "Viagra"? Italians (people who apparently don't have their Viagra needs covered by email spam already - or maybe "Viagra" is the name of some popular Italian resort town.)

What does it all mean? When I Googled that phrase, I got this site with this wisdom:
    What does it all mean?It is now the summer of my freshman year at university. In other words, I will be a sophomore in the fall of 2000. After two semester's worth of classes, I'm filled with more questions than when I began paying out thousands of dollars a year to continue my education. ..
    In searching over the web, one finds people displaying information that is questionable in verification, information that has been stolen and reproduced, and generally a lot of idiots vying for the attention of other idiots looking to replicate and reproduce what they find, wether (sic) what they find is true or not. I'm attempting not to do that. You're welcome.

So what does your search history say about you?