I GUESS I’LL NEVER BE A COFFEE SNOB

I was in my twenties and getting some breakfast at Elm City Bagels in Keene, NH. Everybody was so excited while waiting in line to check out.” What is everybody talking about?” I asked the lady in front of me. “They just got Starbucks coffee in!” she said in a giddy tone. Wow, I thought to myself. I’d been hearing about Starbucks for years now and finally I get to see what all the buzz was about. I set my bagel down and ordered a Starbucks coffee instead of my usual “regular” coffee, which now; after so much fanfare would surely taste like coffee they swept off the floor.

The woman behind the counter handed me my cup and a brown thingy she called a sleeve (before this, sleeves didn’t really exist, and the only sleeve used to pick up a hot cup, was your own coffee stained one) with the Starbucks logo on it…I was confused and trying to put it together in my head how was this going to turn into a lid, When out of the woman’s mouth came the total for my “coffee of the god’s” and a bagel with schmeer. This took my attention away from the sleeve and back to reality. “What?” I said confused. She repeated the total and I told her she must be mistaken, I only had one bagel in my bag not two.
Feeling good about clearing up the mistake, I went back to the sleeve for a split second finally figuring it out before she said “I only charged you for one bagel.” So, begged the question…”How much was the coffee?” Now bear with me kind people as I have no earthly idea as to how much the coffee or the bagel were, but I do remember the coffee was damned near as much as the price of another bagel with schmeer, And these were 1990’s dollars (always wanted to write that) so we shall leave it at that. I walked away with my cup, my sleeve and my bagel thinking to myself….this better make sparks fly outta my arse!

A long story longer…It was the worst coffee I had ever tasted, surely they burnt this batch. I informed them of the mistake, this batch had been burned and I’d like another. The woman behind the counter laughed and said I was like the twentieth person who had said this. She said “It’s supposed to be that rich!” Rich?! Brownies are rich, this was burnt. Burnt was a flavor I knew well from years of eating my mother’s grilled chicken (Which I loved by the way…in case you’re reading Mom). Today it is a personal joke whenever somebody says “Starbucks”, I always say…”Oh Starbucks, their coffee is sooo rich!” To which, everybody likes to nod like little sheep and I always get a laugh out of, even though nobody knows why.

Look, I pick on Starbucks because I can. But the truth is, almost everybody is making this same brand/type (in my sorry opinion) of crappy tasting coffee. Joe Muggs, Seattle’s Best….pick one, any one… they all stink in my estimation. I don’t mind, and even enjoy espresso, which I drank a lot of when I lived in the South End of Hartford, CT (a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood) This espresso I drank was not fussed over, and cooked on a little stove top device that reminded me of the old fashioned percolators of my youth. It seemed as though all the Italian families had three or four of these in all sizes, and the coffee mostly came out of cans although there was some fresh ground as well.
I’ve had Greek Coffee made by my dear friend Litsa and others that is also good. I’ve done cuppings more times than I can tell you. Cuppings done with dear friends who try their damnedest to make me a coffee snob and for the life of me I just can’t do it. “Here Pav, this is a hand-crafted single origin bean from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, and roasted by this super-duper place in Washington state.”  “Hand-Crafted” I ask? Whose hand exactly made that bean? Single origin, well you told me where it came from, of course all the beans are from there… Why are we making it so damned complicated, it’s just coffee. To me, honestly, it just tastes like the last cup o’crap that I didn’t care for. “Pav, can’t you taste those fruity notes, with caramel and chocolate undertones?” NO, and if I could, not only would it be wonderful, this would be the only coffee I’d drink!

What’s my go to coffee of choice you ask? Well I’ll gladly tell you I drink Maxwell house “Master Blend” oh, so rich! It was good enough for my father, and it’s good enough for me. I know, I know…bring on the haters! Look, I never said I was high end. I’m decidedly not high end, unless we’re talking about scotch. For me coffee is just an effective and cheap delivery system for the caffeine I need to turn me from Cap’n A-hole, into the gruff but lovable me, you have all come to know and love.

My brother Bryan I can only imagine, is rolling his eyes in disgust with a look on his face as if I had just lost his entire baseball card collection from the early 70’s…ummm… like I did when I was ten or so. (Hey in all fairness, they were all still relatively new cards when I lost them, so me losing them, or us using them in the spokes of our bicycle tires… let’s let bygones be bygones)  Yes Bryan is one of you “coffee” people. I have no idea how, as we grew up drinking coffee that had been percolated for oh, just under a year, and kept in the pot to get “stronger”.  My grandfathers were both from Canada and were tea men, but you could float an iron rail on both of their tea’s after brewing, so maybe that’s where the strong coffee my father made came from.

Another reason I can never be a coffee snob is because going into coffee shops now just makes me laugh. Mostly at the ridiculousness the concoctions, but also at the prices and to a lesser extent, the collection of poor tortured souls behind the counter…”The Barista”! Wow, barista sounds super important. Let me break it down for you real quick, it’s not. You serve coffee. Sometimes it takes a long time to serve one of these crazy assed mochalatta ya ya cha cha drinks, but nine times out of ten, you… are not a barista.

Now now good and noble slingers of coffee, don’t be offended.  I’m not saying it’s not a real word. But a full 99.5% of all people serving coffee are not what I would consider a barista, nor would true barista’s (which I know exist)…nor would anybody else. Look, I’m a cook…some people even call me chef. I’m not a chef or a cook because I own knives and have an oven. I’m a cook or a chef because I have trained extensively in culinary arts. If just showing up to a kitchen made someone a chef, my mom would be a master chef of hot cereal and burnt chicken! Training for a day or two figuring out what goes into that five hundred plus calorie, thirty odd grams of fat gut bomb called a venti iced whole milk double chocolaty chip frappuccino with whipped cream does not a barista make. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you what it’ll make the recipient either.

For what it’s worth dear barista wanna be’s… I couldn’t and wouldn’t do what you do. I’d sooner fight a lion with a banana, than deal with most of the pretentious asses you deal with on a daily basis.  (Read this next quoted text in whiny assed spoiled teen cheerleader voice while on a cell phone and you’ll see what I mean) “Yes, ummmmmmmmm….I’ll have a venti iced whole milk double chocolaty chip frappuccino with whipped cream… oh, and extra mocha…..oh, and make that to go….what, oh I know… I told Laurie, that purse didn’t even match, and so she was like, WHAT EVS……..yeah, oh, hold on a sec…..Did I order extra mocha?!”

Yeah, I got your order sweet pea…Here’s your coffee flavored coffee…black… milk and sugar are over there, now beat it! YOUR HIPS WILL THANK ME LATER! (Sorry, I pictured it being me behind the counter…and no I wasn’t all tatted up looking like I was in Goth hell either) Now picture a whole line of these people, or people just like this one, throwing in the odd business person, soccer mom, etc…oh for the love of pecan pie, please choke me out now!

So yes I know I am the exception rather than the rule, and coffee snobs feel free to extol the virtues of sustainable, in season, organic, French roasted, fair trade, French Pressed, hand-crafted, single sourced, Kopi Luwak (you know, cat poop coffee…look it up)…and I’ll picture you getting it straight from the source. But you’re probably right, maybe my piss poor taste, or lack thereof is the reason for my not liking “good” coffee. Coffee is something I love the smell of dearly, and aside from bacon, nothing smells better. From a taste standpoint however, I just don’t get it. Jameson on the other hand…   

SKY MAGAZINE…FINALLY, SOMEBODY GETS ME.

BRAVO… SKY…BRAVO! At long last… Finally, a magazine that understands it’s demographic. Not only did you get me, but you embraced me with the complete package of fashion, travel, celebrity and food. I stared wantingly at the cover, and after closing the last page feeling sated and spent…I finally felt loved, seduced by the sweet, warm, and yet torrid embrace of SKY Magazine. I knew then, there could never be another magazine for me….and yet you weren’t to be. I was a kept man who could never have that perfect someone…..but at least finally, FINALLY, someone understood what it meant…to be in coach.


I knew this just by looking at the cover of your November edition. Seeing Sarah Jessica Parker’s face, let me know this was going to be something special. I mean really, it doesn’t get much more bourgeoisie and common then that. If anybody knows common it’s this connoisseur of the over iced three ounce diet coke in a plastic cup, and one ounce portion of pretzels man of style, fashion and cuisine…common indeed! I wasn’t disappointed at all.


I flipped open the first page, then flipped again…and again, again, again, again, again…I had to do this ten times to get to a story. The up side was, I got to see a note and a very Annette Bening’ish photo of the editor sitting on a chair that looks like it was stolen out of the gate area of some exotic far flung destination, perhaps…Newark or the like…BONUS! Some people wouldn’t get it, but I knew what you were doing, Editor Jayne Haugen Olson…this was your idea of foreplay, and I was loving it. Nothing like a little advertising to get the blood flowing.


Then you made the first move and it was electric, a bottle of Beau Joie Champagne with a copper skeleton around the bottle so we don’t even need to have an ice bucket, and at only $110 dollars a bottle, you had me opening my wallet like a 17 year old sailor in a whore house. Wow, that felt amazing, but you weren’t finished yet.


You made me aware of  Prada, I got my eye on a hot little nine hundred dollar man bag I was hoping would really set off the rims on my Ford F-150 Pick up truck.  Then there was Edition Hotel, New York..I can’t wait until it opens in 2015, talk about premature advertisement…how dirty. If you want a preview just skip on over to Istanbul (which I’m pretty sure is somewhere near Trenton) and check out the only open one. Then be sure to shell out ten thousand dollars for the penthouse suite…for one night.  Barcelona, Spain, how fantástico, Now I’ve got someplace else to go on vacation next year if my plans to Hampton Beach, NH fall through. You thrust all this on me before I could even take a breath. But you never did relent…


Then you made me do something I didn’t feel like doing, but once I did….it was amazing, I got a Saxonia Dual Time for the low low price of only $28,100… You tempted me with the 165th anniversary edition for a mere $500,000… But I felt I had the staying power for the 175th edition which could be much more than say $750,000 dollars, and so I waited. After all Jayne, this can’t be all about me. I want you to be fulfilled as well, and what can be more fulfilling than what must be hundreds of millions of advertising dollars?!


It came time for your pièce de résistance….ah the restaurants. Contributing food editor Andrew Zimmern must have spent at least five, or maybe ten whole minutes coming up with these gems. Jason Oliver Nixon was no slouch either, and with the title of “Roosters, Pigs, Lambs and Lions, Oh, My!” must of had the help of an incredibly talented six year old copy writer, fresh from a viewing of that L. Frank Baum classic. I mean who doesn’t want to drop a Benjamin or two for breakfast lunch and dinner every single day. I myself don’t know of a single place in NYC where you could get a good sandwich or a slice of pizza. No Ma’am, not when I’ve just spent 28K on a watch, I need some beautiful, well heeled people to look at me while I overspend for a tortured plate of food. That’s how “our” class of people roll.


I kept going, through Tel Aviv, a list of the best plastic surgeons of America (gosh, where do you even start right?!), a map of the Schipol Int’l airport in Amsterdam, until I couldn’t take it anymore, I’m trying to not, one more page…… and then finally…DAMMIT!!!….somebody already did the crossword puzzle.


I don’t know how you did it Jayne, I mean with eighty five or ninety percent of the plane being coach, and yet pulling in advertisers that make Robb Report look decidedly broke ass. After watching others use their magazine to scratch themselves with, put torn out pages over drink spills, move into other unsuspecting passengers seat backs…I knew we couldn’t create this magic again. The only consolation I had, was knowing that there were others. Others that had been, and are being used, but unlike myself, the advertisers must be getting screwed every month, not just when Delta had the odd lower fare. Fed with what has to be a steady diet of promises, that they are reaching only the elitist of the elite. But instead are reaching….me.



Dear Jayne,

In all seriousness, I personally believe your food selections could use a bit more substance for the common person riding the planes. As for the destinations, fashion, culture…I don’t really give a rip. Food is what I know. I can’t help but think if you made the food pieces more accesible, the magazine may at some point become….palatable. I’d like to help with those pieces and am willing to do so for the cash equivalent, of the 165th anniversary 
Saxonia watch…..or whatever you can manage to scrape together. It’s not for me, it’s for my credit card bill that’s now in the red by 40K + dollars because of all the must have items in your magazine…turns out some watch companies return policies are pretty strict.


Toodles,
Pav
pavlovblogs@blogspot.com

RESTAURANT BEHAVIOR

Etiquette… this is what they call those life lessons mom tried to teach me, with my elbows planted firmly on the table while jamming an uncut mound of salad into my face while reaching across my brothers plate to grab a dinner roll. I remember when I was young her telling me, “if you do that out on a date someday, the girl is going to be very embarrassed and never want to go out with you again…” In my mid to late teens, I interpreted these lessons as “you keep that crap up and you’re never getting to second base!” More on me later…If I wanted to bore you people that badly, I’d have The Cat doing a podcast of Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave.”


This isn’t about how you should or shouldn’t act in a restaurant. I’m sure you all got the “make sure you pull out your date’s chair when you get to the table, that’s a sign of good manners” speech already, or would have if you were paying attention and not loosening the top on the salt shaker. Rather, this is an observation on wait staff, hostesses, bartenders and customers you might find in restaurants… besides every guy knows the most important rule of etiquette, is to open the car door for the lady….so that you may freely pass gas while walking around to the other side of the car, making sure not to get into the car too quickly….well, this applies until you know she really likes you, then you can go back to being the animal you used to be.


What can I say about host/hostesses, they don’t have to be rocket scientists, yet they always manage to seat you next to the only other table with people in an otherwise empty restaurant. Also, I’m not sure why it is they feel the need to seat you next to the bathroom or at a table where so many people walk by, you’d think there was a mass migration going on. The difference being Wildebeest wouldn’t stare quite as much as they were passing. Oh, and a little tip to you kind hosts and hostesses… were not doing the 200 high hurdles here, let’s keep it down to a meandering pace.


Wait staff (fine dining):  In culinary school you are taught the first thing out of your mouth to the paying customer should be, “can I get you something to drink?” Not “Hi”, not “my name is Cassidee, that’s with two ee’s but most people try to add a y, isn’t that crazy, any who, welcome to Chez Andy” You don’t sit down with the customer, you don’t lean on the table, don’t get down on your haunches…You ask them if they’d like a drink. period. After you get them a drink, if you have bread or a snack of some sort to offer, bring it, then you can explain the specials. The customer is there to relax, enjoy themselves, each other, and the food. It’s not their job to know your name. If this is trivia night, let them know so they can win something for knowing it. The customer shouldn’t notice anything other than they were well taken care of, for that….you will be rewarded.


Wait staff (Everything else): Feel free to tell me your name and something funny, but then get to asking if I’d like a drink. When a customer sends something back, or tells you something is incorrect… just say “yes”. This is not the time to try and prove you’re right, in fact, sometimes you are….but by trying to win an argument with the customer, you just pissing them off, and telling them they are stupid… which sometimes they are. So let that make you feel warm inside, and just say yes.


Now, this next bit is super important. When it comes to taking the customers order, do me and more importantly, do yourself a favor…WRITE IT DOWN! I’m not impressed with your memorization abilities while taking an order for a table of five, while winking at someone walking by and ignoring what the hell I’m asking for. Because when you come back and my food isn’t exactly what I asked for, I am going to hammer you into dust my little blank expression friend. There is a reason you have a dupe pad and a pencil…use them. Otherwise I’m going to walk you back and forth to that kitchen like a show pony with things I asked for, and things I didn’t….but you won’t know because you were too smart to write them down. If you’re using a dupe pad and pencil, and you make a mistake…mistakes happen, and I know you’re trying your best…I appreciate that and will cut you some slack.


Bartenders: The only thing I have a problem with is when they have no personality, or when they would prefer to spend more than eighty percent of their time with “a regular”. Here’s a thought, include some folks into a conversation at least make the offer to open it up to others with a simple “what do you think about the Bruins this year?” or the like…. If you’re at a bar eating dinner chances are you’re there by yourself, from out of town, or are in the mood for a bit of conversation to kill the time along with some brain cells while having a bite to eat. Keep in mind, someone whose had a good time, a few laughs and felt like “part of the gang”…is likely to tip a few extra bucks, and if in the area again…a repeat customer, all because you were a swell person.


The customer: Ah, the customer….ok


Keep your kids in their seat…and please, I know you can’t control their screaming, but you can control where they scream, it’s just rude to not take action for the folks around you, unless you’re at MickyD’s…then all bets are off. Letting your kids scream and run around like it was your own private Romper Room is not cool… Hello, Magic Mirror called and said for you to sit your crazy assed kids down! In the old days, A.K.A. my youth, this would have equaled a one way trip to spank their ass town. “But Pav, I don’t want to stifle their creativity.” Ok, so have some fun with it, make a poem out of sit down quiet time in the restaurant….Here’s an example:


U are so royal with your own little crown,
when you see a waiter please sit your ass down.
U are as cute as a kitten or pup,
while we’re in the restaurant please shut the F#$k up.

You can use that one people, don’t worry…I’ll make up some more.


Talking on cell phones does not bother me unless I’m eating in a fine dining restaurant. I think people get pissed at it because they either A) can’t hear the other end of the conversation. B) can’t eavesdrop on the conversation being held by the twenty somethings at the table across the room who have been doing more than play footsies under the table all night. I don’t talk on the phone any louder than I do in a person to person conversation…which is what they are doing at their table, having conversations, or should be, if she wasn’t so busy trying to hear everybody else’s. If you do, or know someone who does talk loudly on the phone…stop it, you sound like an idiot.

Do not stare at other people, or their food. Didn’t your mother ever tell you this is rude?! Well, don’t mind me if I use the ole three stooges Moe with two fingers to the eyeballs routine to reinforce that lost lesson.

Do not tell your waiter you can’t have “something” because you’re allergic to it, if you are not allergic to it. Be truthful with what you do and don’t like. If the chef can accommodate he/she will, if they can’t too bad for you. If you are truly allergic to something be specific about it.

Stop sending food back to the kitchen because you’re a dumb ass, and don’t know what medium rare is. Or sending back fried food because it seems greasy….you know what, it is greasy, it just came out of  375 degree oil… it’s probably gonna have some of that grease on, or in it.  Look, kitchens make mistakes, they are back there sweating their asses off to make good and tasty food for you… your peas touching your potato is not a good reason to send food back. Sending a well done steak back because you asked for medium rare is a good time to send it back. After all, you can’t stuff the shit back in the mule. Oh, and when you do send it back…. be nice about it… they really do try hard.

Do tip well! The waitstaff, bartenders, bus people all work very hard to make you happy and ensure that you have a good night. Help ensure that they can get groceries and pay rent. I promise they won’t become millionaires just because you tip an extra four or five percent.

Just relax and be human, if you wouldn’t do it with company over at your house, don’t do it in a restaurant. If you are with someone who is acting the fool. Here’s a fun game you can play that writer P.J. O’Rourke used to play with his buddies at Rolling Stone Magazine. Take the little stainless steel creamer (yep, the one with a lid on it that looks like a mini trash can). Let’s call him Carl the Creamer, use your thumb to lift the lid up and down as if Carl is talking…(high pitched voice)”Carl’s Hungry….Feed ME!” says Carl…. pass him in front of the others at your table and have them feed Carl bits of food, sugar packets, tea bags etc… until Carl is full. When the meal is over pick Carl up and make Carl start to talk again…Carl: “uh…gosh, I don’t feel so well….I probably shouldn’t have eaten so much…I think….I’m gonna be…..” Then open the lid all the way up and toss at the offending ass at the table…I guarantee you will get a laugh from everybody else at the table.

Have a super weekend…

truth…IN FOOD ADVERTISING

I was walking through the grocery store to pick up some ginger ale to mix with my Jameson …medicine and something caught my eye. Cherry 7-Up Antioxidant…um, ok.


Now good people, I am not a scientist… but on occasion I have been known to think. Wouldn’t the benefits of antioxidants in high fructose corn syrup and dye filled soda water, be outweighed by the fact that they are in high fructose corn syrup and dye filled soda water?! Their advertising tells me “There’s never been a more delicious way to cherry pick your antioxidant.” Really?! What’s wrong with a nice fresh red pepper, or a tomato or a hundred other wonderful foods with antioxidants? I pick on 7Up, but it’s not completely their fault…Some egghead at an advertising firm sat staring at the ingredients list and had to think of something truthful to say about soda or snack food or ice cream or whatever else someone plunked in front of him/her.  Now I know as an American male in the 21-54 year old demographic or whatever age group they lump me into, I’m supposed to be a complete moron. (Shut it Cat!) I see the advertisements…..start scene….. I am talking on the phone telling my buddies I’m eating Boston cream pie while what I’m really doing is staring into a fridge full of yogurt..and crappy yogurt at that. I don’t know what genius thought this one up, maybe someone who has never had yogurt, or never saw a guy have a phone conversation with a buddy. Here’s how that would go…


Guy 1- Got a tee time for 7 tomorrow. You in?
Guy 2- Yeah.
Guy 1- Cool, see ya.
Guy 2- *beep*


(normally this would be in text form, but ad people think everybody still talks on the phone…I myself have gone beyond needing to talk to people at all, much less actual friends)


So after I saw the miracle antioxidant soda, it got me wondering what other silly ad crap is out there. I wasn’t disappointed.


“Natural”, this was on so many different foods I stopped counting. The best part about the word natural in the ad world is, they don’t have to explain to you what it actually means…which is absolutely, JACK, SQUAT. Most people when they see the word Natural in labeling, define it in their own terms according to how they see it. But when you come down to it, all food is natural to one degree or another….the vegetables that go into a can of soup are natural….but then again so is the cow manure used to grow them, and naturally, I won’t be eating that.


“Organic”, this is a good one as well. Now technically, there are laws governing what organic means. But they have become so stretched and convoluted that they mean virtually nothing. Cows that are feed organically certified grain to produce organic milk and yet never see so much as a blade of grass doesn’t sound very organic to me. Importing certified organic produce from China also concerns me… These are the the folks that brought us melamine in dog food, and antifreeze in toothpaste. If we’re stretching what “organic” means in the states, what are they doing to them over there?! Organic is a fine word if you’re buying from farmer Joe down the street who’s hawking squash at the farmers market…..there “organic”, actually means something.


“Fresh” If something is in a bag and warm, as in, it just came out of the oven within the hour….Then it’s fresh. If something is in a bag with preservatives and a sell by date and has been there more than an hour…it’s not fresh anymore.


“Wholesome” Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” was wholesome, food is not wholesome.


“Zero Trans-fat” Just because you see this on your favorite package of processed preservative laden cookies, does not mean you should make a meal of the entire contents of said package, because you’re “feeling pretty stoked about it being zero trans-fat.”


“Homemade” Unless a significant other, be it your grandma, husband, child, aunt etc… wrote this on your bag lunch….it is NOT, homemade.


“Cage Free”- You’ve seen these in the store… the super eggs, cage free, free range, hormone free, fed an all natural vegetarian diet (when did chickens stop eating bugs by the way?) fully tanned, massaged by virgins, run three miles a day and drinking only water from glaciers on the eastern slopes of the Himalayan mountains for the low low price of eight bucks and your first born child…. these babies must be running in herds on the great plains making the remaining buffalo tremble right? Yeah, not so much….more industrial farming. Do yourself a favor and find a local farm for some real “cage free” eggs…and don’t freak out when you find out chickens are still eating bugs.


“Hearty”….It means heart felt… How does your heart feel when you’re eating that can of chicken broccoli cheese manly soup with 22 grams of fat, 1780 grams of sodium and more than 30 carbs?! Mmmmm Mmmmm _________________ flat line! And these people think you should pour this liquid stroke on top of potato or rice…where’s my defibrillator?


“Flavored” What this means… whatever the food you are eating is supposed to be flavored like, it will decidedly not have that flavor. Which is a good lead into the next ad-tastic word…


“Style” Add a word in front of STYLE, and it will immediately become the antithesis of that word. Let me give you a few examples…Home”style” will be nothing like you make at home, Chicago “style” will not be anything like you would have in Chicago…. Don’t believe me?! Go to the freezer section and get yourself a Chicago “style” deep dish pizza, eat it. Now fly to Chicago for an actual Chicago deep dish pizza and eat it. I’ll bet you feel like beating the person who wrote “style” on the frozen pizza box, with a bag of nickles… don’t you? I know I do.


“Authentic” I don’t know about you, but when I’m walking by a can of refried beans… I’m thinking man…I’ll bet that’s just how they’re doin it down in Oaxaca, Mexico….Hey Juan, wait for me, and I’ll bring the crunchy taco shells!


Look… I could go on in perpetuity with these, but I’m not going to unless someone can bring 30 yards of kevlar and five rolls of tape to keep my head from exploding. Advertising really chaps my haggis…all the half truths, The lies, the treating of consumers like dumb asses, the half naked women….OK, the half naked women..maybe not as much. Why not have a little truth in food advertising? Like….like Dudley Moore in “Crazy People” when the character Drucker said
“Metamucil: It helps you go to the toilet. If you don’t use it, you’ll get cancer and die.”
That may be a bit extreme, but here are a few of my ideas…

“Twinkies, so bad for you….but oh so cream filled!” 


“Cherry 7Up… for people who hate real sugar, don’t worry, we’re only using the best quality high fructose corn syrup available baby!”


“Quaker brown sugar and cinnamon oatmeal, for people who don’t mind eating floor sweepings…and  enough sugar to really amp up that pancreatic function!”


Those are just a few of my ideas….I’ve got a million more Madison Avenue, so give me a call and I’ll be happy to help you get your head yanked out of your collective butts…I’ll just be here playing chess with The Cat and drin….uh, taking my medicine.

MOM AND MAYPO

As I look out the window while I type, it’s 6 degrees Fahrenheit and the world is wrapped in snow’s pillowy embrace…Wait, did I just say pillowy embrace?! Oh Sweet Jesus in satin pants, this must mean another one of Pav’s childhood stories… OK, so The Cat isn’t digging it, he is leaving for a skating party with friends….hopefully you’ll enjoy it anyway.

Every winter, after the excitement of the holiday feasts have faded. I get nostalgic for a more simple breakfast. Something that used to terrify me as a child, somehow brings comfort and warmth as an adult…cereal. Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, Wheatena, Cornmeal, Maypo and Grapenuts. This was the dreaded “winter” cereal lineup of my youth. What’s that?! No, I meant Cornmeal as they weren’t considered grits in New Hampshire. My mom made them something exotic, “Cornmeal Mush…the Indians used to eat it.” These six cereals were there to greet my brother and I every single morning when we arrived at the breakfast table. As mom believed and stated often that “you should have something warm in your belly on a cold morning.” As mom was from a family of fifteen kids, I’m sure there were mornings in northern Vermont where she grew up, they may have done without this luxury on a morning or two.  Mom would change the order around so you never ate the same one on consecutive mornings. As my brother and I got older she would ask which one we wanted. As Bryan was not an early riser and I was, I usually got to make the call, often not the right one judging my my brothers disgust (secretly it’s sometimes why I chose the one I did…sorry Bry). I didn’t really have a favorite as they had been the same cereals I had been eating every school morning since I could remember.

Mom would often add different things to these cereals to add to the variety. Raisins, walnuts, banana, cranberries and the like. In all fairness raisins were the go to, followed by banana as walnuts and cranberries were usually only around for baking Christmas goodies. Mom was not much of a baker otherwise, save for the much loved pineapple upside down cake. But the two things that always accompanied the cereal were milk and sugar. The sugar once in a great while was replaced with maple syrup or brown sugar, but ninety percent of the time it was of the granulated white variety. The milk was almost always whole milk, except when the milk ran low and somebody forgot to get more, then there was evaporate milk mixed with water…this was never a happy morning. 

We always ate the cereals and headed out into the cold to the bus stop which was 20 miles through knee deep snow uphill both ways….ok, it was about a quarter mile… but it did get cold, sometimes as much as minus thirty, and on occasion a goodly amount of snow… I recall nine inches of fresh snow on the ground once with snow still falling and thinking to myself….who’s leg to we gotta hump to get the day off here?! OK, I probably didn’t think exactly that. School cancellations were a much loved day for my brother and I as it meant two things, More sleep for my perpetually tired brother, and no hot cereal for me. My father would have the radio on in the living room at about 5 am, and lying in bed I could hear them read through the names praying to hear my schools name. Sometimes we won, which meant my father would turn off the radio and make the walk to his and mom’s bedroom to tell her she could rest for a while longer…Sometimes we lost which meant my father kept the radio on to make sure the call wasn’t made later. This of course was the only way to know as there were no automated callings, no internet access, and my town didn’t even show up on our state’s one news station’s map!

My Junior year in High School, Bryan got paroled from cereal jail as he left for the Air Force, and I was left alone to face the onslaught of winter cereals alone. Nobody to argue with, nobody to annoy or be annoyed by, I was left alone with nothing but a long stare at hot cereal…this was a lonely, desperate place. I tried explaining to my mom about then, that maybe I could just have some toast, or perhaps I’d have eggs, bacon and toast…”I’ll even make it”… Which I’m sure was code for “YOU can make it”. I was an early riser, but the thought of waking up and making a full on breakfast seemed pretty daunting…at least for this fifteen year old. My mother declined with the counter offer, and you can do the dishes. As my parents only dishwasher went from two boys to one…I quickly bowed out.

I had to do something to stop the madness, so I devised a plan. My mother went out every morning to scrape the car and warm it up before leaving for work. This gave me a five or so minute window to bring my bowl of cereal to the bathroom, dump it, return to the kitchen and be washing my bowl by the time my mother came back in. This in fact worked swimmingly for a week or two until one day it had snowed. I felt I had plenty of time and continued my newly devised plan not taking into account that my father had shoveled the driveway when he got home, which meant he had just barely gotten to bed and wasn’t asleep. The bathroom being just outside my parents bedroom, I’m sure offered an excellent listening position for my now tired and yet sleepless six foot two inch 270 pound father who wasn’t particularly jaunty this time of morning. I got back to the kitchen feeling good about my success when mother came back inside. 

Dad made a surprise visit to the kitchen, I thought to get something to drink. Mom asked how my cereal was and with a smile and a wink I offered “It was great!” in a way I thought Tony the Tiger might say. My father not being amused, offered instead “Yeah?!…If it was so good, why did you dump it down the toilet?!” UH….looking to Mom’s face and knowing the gig was up I was speechless. Waiting for mom’s reply to see her go from sadness to anger I winced and expected either a smack upside the back of my head from dad, or a tounge lashing of incredible proportions from my mother…..But what I got instead was “Fine, well I won’t be making you cereal anymore” With a look of confidence on her face as though she had just solved a quantum physics problem. My father just looked stunned….”That’s what he wanted in the first place!” My mother went to say something to him and her face went blank, then she started to laugh….my father shook his head and started for the bedroom. Mom looked at me and said, “You should have just told me, instead of wasting food.” To which I felt awful about, knowing mom just wanted what she thought best for me, preparing a meal for me, a meal made with love… and I threw it away. Preparing food for someone has meant so much more thanks to that morning.

I never did get another bowl of hot cereal for the rest of my high school days, and at the time I was thankful. I never really touched it again for more than a decade after that and then in my late twenties, and going through some tough times both personally and financially, mom and dad came for a visit. She was always bringing some sort of care package, heck, even now when I go to visit, she tries to load me up with food stuffs. But I’ll never forget that visit because she brought with her, aside from some canned goods, pasta and the like…hot cereal. She asked if I’d like to go out and eatwith her and dad, and I declined. Instead I asked her if she could make some cereal…It was just what I needed…a simple meal. Made with love and care, when that was what I needed most.

Mom and I laugh about the “cereal incident of 85” to this day. When I go over to her house I even make some for her on occasion…so here it is, cold and snowy and it’s time for breakfast…I think I’ll have a bowl of oatmeal and give mom a call.

Have a great Sunday!
PAV