DEAR BROOKE- FOOD NETWORK INCIDENT

The following is an open letter to Brooke Johnson at Food Network in response to an unfortunate incident that happened over the weekend… The incident involved 4 hours of Food Network programming and me without duct tape to prevent my head from exploding, decided writing a letter would be better than climbing a clock tower or running through a store naked with a rescue flare up my butt. Here is what I wrote her…

Dear Brooke,

Bored out of my skull with every episode of Top Gear checked off and every H2 channel show already accounted for, The Cat using a little skulduggery treated me to four excruciating hours of hell on earth. No it wasn’t a “Hello Kitty” collector show, nor was it a documentary on “Le Chat Noir.” What we are talking about here is four hours I’ll never get back, and I may have actually lost grey matter in the process. I watched four complete episodes of Food Network’s, “Worst Cooks in America.” But as I endured this little slice of hell, it got me to thinking this might actually be a good show… except it would have to be completely different… or maybe not at all.

Remember back in high school when the really big cool kids picked on the defenseless little nerdy kids? Well if you look back on that fondly Brooke, you’re gonna love this show…and then someone should steal your lunch money and beat you with your own book bag for being such a d-bag. Anyway, that’s the premise of the show Food Network has cooked up for my entertainment. You take these self-admitted failures of culinary arts, and then proceed to give them all verbal and mental wedgies for the entire hour until finally kicking off the worst of the worst. So I have some notes for you that will go completely ignored, but will release some aggravation and save valuable couch time at my therapist’s office for subjects that dearly require some attention like: Why can’t I beat The Cat at chess?

Here is the basic format of the show as I see it Brooke, and you can tell me where I am wrong: Showcase multiple people who can’t cook in the least by presenting the two team leaders and accomplished chefs with food they made at home. They show them waiting in long lines which means the contestants have been there holding their food for a long period of time in the heat, and so by extension are holding little petri dishes of clostridium botulinum. Here’s where we cue the wrinkled and turned up noses of the team leaders, who then proceed to make snide comments and berate the large number of hopeless cooks. Out of these contestants the team leaders see fit to name sixteen of these hapless cooks, as the worst cooks in America. Which I know not to be true, as I have yet to see any of the women from my grammar school kitchen anywhere!

So after these poor schlubs have proven they were useless enough to be chosen for the show, they receive an apron and then they must cook a signature dish to really put their lack of creative cooking talents through the wringer. Here come the upturned noses again followed by a barrage of head nodding and shaking as the two culinary professionals taste and lament how these are such awful cooking mistakes. (Uh, I believe these people may have already mentioned this to you) So after the tasting ends the team leading chefs choose one person for their team (presumably the best of the worst) and one for the other team (this would be the worst of the worst) so by the time you get to the end of the picking you get what must be the middle of the worst?

After that confusing mess, the chefs do a demonstration showing the aforementioned aspiring culinary idiots how to make a dish based on their own recipes. Then with this knowledge the contestants attempt to make the same dish and hilarity ensues while the chef leaders shout down from a balcony at times, and at other times are mysteriously right next to the contestant so that they may each receive an exacting dose of humiliation. After this segment is over (leaving some contestants sobbing and shaken), the chefs taste the results and continue berating the efforts until begrudgingly a winner and looser are chosen from each team. The loser’s must then relinquish their apron and I assume are damned to the dark corners of hell for the lost souls of cookery. While weeks two through eight are spent weeding out the worst of the worst to find the best of the worst who then cook a meal for a panel of chefs who declare one winner, who is the best of the worst cooks in America…I think.

So after watching this sad mess for nearly four hours, here are a few notes for you Brooke… feel free to pull out a crayon and write this down. I’m surprised you don’t already know this but I’ll let you in on a little secret. Nobody really likes to see somebody beat down on a bunch of underdogs unless the underdogs can come back and whoop some arse. Instead of eliminating people after every show, you should keep them on for all the episodes and just choose one person out of the bunch to represent the team. The fact that you’re showing industry professionals(both of whom I respect) riding obviously horrible home cooks like show ponies for cheap laughs is not only a sad representation of your network, it’s  just sad in general. But if you think it’s funny, let’s get you on a Tennis court and have Andy Roddick serving up 155 mph aces while screaming “you suck” after each one…come to think of it, I just might watch that for ten seasons!

Getting rid of the worst of the worst after each week is just silly. Those people should be examples of worst to first, or at the very least vastly improved. On the show they use the term culinary “boot camp” which should mean several weeks of rigorous training designed to improve one’s skill set. I’m pretty sure if boot camps were only a day or two long; the Goth Guy at my local coffee shop would have been an Airborne Ranger for a day so he could have some “really cool” jump boots instead of paying full price for a pair of Doc Martens.

Keep those folks on the show as an example of what some face time with a world class professional can do for a home cook. The ancillary benefit is that the home cooks you’re targeting might also learn something if they aren’t too busy flipping between your show and” Hillbilly Hand Fishing.” (Lucky for me I DVR’ed it) It would be good PR for the Network and it doesn’t make the two Chefs look like a couple of asses, unless that’s what you’re shooting for. In which case, keep up the good work as I’m sure you’ll have them reduced to handing out Spam on Triscuits by the time the next Sandra Lee book signing rolls around.

Instead of having the worst cooks in America why not bring in the cockiest cooks who don’t work in a restaurant or have a culinary certificate? You could have them showing the world just what kinds of “mad” kitchen skills they have, then the chefs could rip them a new one. Nobody minds seeing these arrogant cooks being shot down by industry professionals after producing epic failures…You would probably even see people tuning in en masse. What did you say Cat? Oh sorry my bad, Kitchen Nightmares has apparently already taken this idea.

Seriously Brooke, three seasons of the worst cook in America and you can’t find the worst yet? Maybe if you advertised it on a network people tuned in to you’d have more success, have you considered G4? Maybe you’ve been at Food Network for too long and there are other networks that could use your skills. C-Span couldn’t suck any more than it already does, but I’m confident you could fix that in just a few short months with a little effort. Look at the bright side; it wouldn’t have all that far to fall.  You could have Guy and Rachael boring the hell out of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar by talking about the merits of his 11.5 billion dollar budget and incorporating phrases like “yummo” or “driving the bus to flavor town” into the conversation. Meanwhile the Food Network could rise from the ashes, brush off cupcake wars or whatever other awful shows you have going on over there and become a network devoted to food again.

Sincerely,

Pavlov

P.S. ~ I hope this hasn’t hurt my chances of becoming head of programming over there. My offer still stands. XXOO
P.P.S.~ As a condition of my hiring, The Cat would like an office, his own secretary pool and some Mardis Gras beads….whatever that means…
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HOT SUPPA fah DINNA

If you were from Northern New England you will know that some people don’t use the word dinner except when referring to a fancy restaurant or perhaps at a night wedding at anyplace that isn’t the town recreation center or VFW. Instead we prefer the term supper, and if further you are from Maine which is to say a Maine-iack, you will have no furtha use for the R at the end of the word and simply say Suppa. The same thing that makes us Northern New Englanders endearing is the same reason Stephen King makes so damned much money on his books…we’re a little on the touched side.


We like to think we are from God’s country, and this would be true is God came from a land of maple syrup swilling, squirrel worshiping circus freaks. Although we do come in handy when you get your H2 Hummer and BMW X5 SUV’s stuck on your way to the ski slopes…Isn’t that right flatlander?! Here’s a place that’s also handy to know next time you’re passing through Portland Maine. After you’ve had to pay a kings ransom in tolls past the combination Six Flags and Mall of America of Liquor Stores on the ten mile highway through hell in New Hampshire, and driving through the gauntlet of  unmarked police speed traps they lovingly call the Maine Turnpike.

The Cat and I went to Portland Maine for a couple days to chill out and get away from it all. By get away from it all, I mean go to a place that is at least one zip code digit away from my town to any hotel that realizes its February in Northern New England and charges accordingly. This trip also requires a hotel staff that is generally tolerant of my traveling companion’s penchant for mischief, and turns a blind eye when he deposits something other than a cigarette butt into the receptacle outside the hotel that is filled with cat litter.


Despite our differences with regards to food (my casual to his more refined tastes), and drink, (I’m a Jameson man to his dirty martinis) we managed to find a place that fits both our palates and more importantly, my price range. I had heard of this place at one of my favorite restaurants the night before and the next morning we had corned beef hash there that was amazing. I remembered thinking I couldn’t wait to go there for dinner which they just started serving. The next night, we did just that…


The slant that Hot Suppa takes on its dinner menu is a southern menu incorporating local products, leading to Northeast meats Southeast. When you think about it, the two locations have a lot in common. Abundant seafood, good availability of great produce plus an amazing array of nylon meshed baseball caps and pickup trucks with forty-four inch mud tires. Sorry southeast, you don’t have the corner on rednecks, we just don’t call them that here…we call them woodchucks.


After studying the menu I decided I’d have the fried green tomato appetizer. This was a traditional cornbread coated thick cut fried green tomato but these were served with chilled lightly smoked Maine bay scallops and slightly spicy remoulade with a lemon wedge. I used to get a similar dish in Alabama that was served with a lump crab and spicy hollandaise which I loved, this Hot Suppa version was every bit as good. The combination of crispy hot green tomato paired well with the chilled and lightly smoked bay scallop’s spicy sauce and a hit of acid in the lemon. The only thing I may have done different was perhaps add a bit of pickled onion or shallot in lieu of the lemon or lemon with a sprinkling of lemon zest on top of the tomato, but then again I’d also like a backrub as I eat and perhaps a pedicure so I guess I’m picking gnat crap out of pepper here.


The Cat went with fried oysters served on a salad of baby spinach, red onion and bleu cheese vinaigrette. This salad was also very well done. The vinaigrette was not heavy handed as most places tend to do, and really rounded the sweetness of the oysters and onion. I wouldn’t have changed anything. It would be interesting to see this dish with wilted spinach and deep fried capers. It would also be interesting to see a flock of pigeons fly out of my butt dragging barbed wire, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t necessary.


Next came entrees, I desperately wanted the BBQ but as I wanted to be able to get up from the table and move at a pace in keeping with something other than a banana slug, I opted for the Cast Iron fried Chicken, which came with one side. I had chosen the maple braised collard greens as my one side and then I had to order an additional side of hand cut fries as well. This was the one sticking point I had with the menu. I would have liked to have chosen my sides and had at least two of the twelve. It would be great if it could be an upscale play on what southerners call a “meat n’ three.”


The chicken was excellent with a seriously tasty and crunchy crust. I like my fried chicken to have a lot more spice than this did, but with an economy sized bottle of Sriracha on the table, problem solved. The collards were cooked wonderfully although I didn’t get much in the way of maple flavor, which was fine with me as I like pepper vinegar with my mustard greens, beet greens or collard greens. It might also be the Acadian in me that craves all things drowning in vinegar if not creton. The hand cut fries couldn’t be better, as they were simply very well done.


The Cat opted for the BBQ Shrimp and Grits as his entrée, and after several threats of violence and “grave consequences,” (I believe were the exact words) I managed to snag a taste of that as well. The butter was nicely browned, and the shrimp carried just the right amount of heat that I would hesitate to call BBQ, but rather… heaven. The grits had been cooked well and complimented the spicy shrimp with their smooth creaminess. The shrimp were medium in size and plentiful. This was something The Cat kept lamenting while looking over the menu taking a tortuous amount of time figuring out what to order.


All in all The Cat loved everything as did I. They had a bread pudding with a bourbon sauce that I would have snipped every whisker on the Cat’s face to get a taste of, but had absolutely no room for. I stood at the bar afterwards talking with Alec who is one of the owners. How in the name of red hot dogs, did two brothers from Gorham, ME come up with a southern inspired menu? He said his brother went to college in Tennessee, he’d go down to visit several times and they were just digging the regional foods. Eventually they went on a bit of a road trip through the southeast finding out the local flavors and favorites. The rest is, as I’ve never heard anybody say… history. They had been doing breakfast and lunch until only recently, when they finally had everything in place to do a proper dinner service.


The restaurant has garnered attention from several magazines including Bon Appetit as well as newspapers and the like… and now they have their PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE… Moi…Lucky them! On a serious note the food is good, seriously good. I plan on going back and trying everything they have on the menu and after I get done with that, I’m gonna start all over again. It’s a super little place with excellent service and staff, and the prices are so reasonable as to allow you a great night on the town without me having to wake up with no eyebrow hair and a reverse Mohawk because the cat did in the name of scientific research. I’m not sure how you make money on that but I’m sure The Cat wouldn’t have done that just for a laugh… on second thought.


BBQ Shrimp and Creamy Grits
Get up and find your way to Hot Suppa after you finish shaving the rest of your head and letting some of that eyebrow hair grow back out, so you don’t end up looking like the banjo boy from “Deliverance.” Suppa is the word they use in northern New England for dinner; Hot Suppa is the word I use for a great happy hour and a fantastic dinner. When you get there tell Alec that Pav said hey… and The Cat says he’s sorry about “the incident.”

Fried Oysters with Baby Spinach and
Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette
Fried Chicken with Collards and hand cut fries

Fried Green Tomatoes with Chilled Smoked Bay
Scallops and Rémoulade .

HOT SUPPA, IT’S WHAT’S FOR BREAKFAST!

When it comes to trying new breakfast places I’m always up for the task. This is because most breakfast places are sadly, not worth becoming emotionally invested in. I go to new places with the hope that I’m going to see something new, something fresh, or for the love of all things pewter…something just done well. Unfortunately I can’t remember the last time I went to breakfast and came away saying wow, BREAKFAST! Then along came “Hot Suppa” in Portland Maine…and now when it comes to deciding where I should go for breakfast, I’d happily make the hour drive each way.


Breakfast, the thought usually invokes a sigh immediately followed by a laundry list of past and present awful restaurants that I have to sort through to get to the lesser of the evils. They all have the same menu of simple favorites that in theory should be easy to execute, but almost always come up short. You know the places, I don’t have to name them because invariably they’re all the same. Wow, wafer thin bacon that is pre-cooked and tastes nothing like bacon. This always makes me ask for the owner or manager so I can proceed with a five minute lecture on everything that’s wrong with restaurants today, and a good dose of embarrassment for whomever happens to be unlucky enough to be with me.


The Cat seldom cares as he is usually done with his breakfast at this point and has headed to the parking lot let the air out of that BMW’s tires because the owner cut us off on our way to the parking space. I look around at the sheepish people ordering this awful bacon and settling for it in lieu of what bacon once was…long slabs of crispy fat with nice bits of lean, and rounded out by smoky and salty goodness. I say these people are sheepish, but I’m not sure it’s being very fair to sheep… these people probably aren’t as smart or assertive as sheep.


Hash browns, these are potatoes that have been shredded, julienned, riced or diced and then pan fried or grilled until brown. It’s in the name of what they are and yet, somewhat mysteriously most places I go to for breakfast still manage to serve hash whites! There is no excuse for this food sin as most of these places aren’t even going through the trouble of actually doing the slicing, grating, dicing, etc… they’re simply throwing them frozen on the grill and undercooking the hell out of them.


Corned beef hash should be my favorite breakfast dish because I love everything that goes into it. When I make it at home I error more to the side of English “bubble and squeak” as I always have cabbage, potato, corned beef, onion and carrots left over from a boiled dinner. Most restaurants don’t bother going through all the trouble of actually cooking the carrots, or the onions, the potato or even the corned beef. Why bother going through all that trouble when all these restaurants feel all you really and truly need for proper corned beef hash, is a can opener.


In all fairness I’ve had this canned product before and I’ve even bought some to take with me camping, on a mountain, in New Hampshire, in January when it got down to nearly minus twenty degrees F. I also bought Beef stew in a can and liked them both for what they were, calorie packed food that would help keep my body from turning into a Pav-sicle. But when I am at home or in a restaurant, have unlimited gas for cooking, and readily available ingredients for what must be one of the easiest meals to make on the planet… it is unforgivable to buy it in a can then serve it to anybody other than a would be freezing person.


Eggs are not easy, go ahead and read it again I’ll wait. Eggs are not easy, and you can learn a lot about a cook by the way the cook eggs. Ok, let me show you how eggs aren’t easy. Fried eggs that are laced and crispy brown around the edges with a hard yolk, to runny whites and unset or even broken yolk are some of the many fried egg sins. Scrambled that are either a runny mess or cooked to super- ball consistency that we’ve seen served to us and piled into buffets. Poached that look like Picasso’s “femme en pleurs” on an acid trip, or cooked to have the look and texture of a lamb testicle, without any of the flavor. Eggs are not easy because you can’t hide your mistakes when you’re cooking one item. Technique and practice is the remedy to this disease, unfortunately nobody seems to know they’re sick.


I was in Portland eating at one of my favorite restaurants. I always sit at the dinner bar which overlooks the kitchen so I can chat with the cooks and it’s always a good time. The sauté guy smiles at me and using his head, points to the couple beside me. The woman is saying “are you alright” to her date that is just about to nod off into his brussel sprout salad. He is clearly comfortably numb, but on the up side not bothering anybody. She looks over to me somewhat embarrassed and says, “It’s nothing a little Hot Suppa corned beef hash can’t fix tomorrow.” I was looking confused at his plate trying to figure out how bacon and apple brussel sprout salad was going to become hash tomorrow morning but she interrupted…”You know on Congress Street, Hot Suppa?!” “They have the best corned beef hash.” With this comment, I knew where I’d be eating breakfast.


I arrived at Hot Suppa not knowing what to expect. I had driven by several times but never thought to stop for breakfast. I’ve been to several other places in Portland but so far, have always been disappointed. On several occasions I’ve ended up having breakfast at whole foods which would either be a bowl of noodles or some kind of lunchtime sandwich and chips… not a super breakfast. The place was very purple, and also very busy with a great laid back vibe. The customers all seemed to be local which is always a good sign, and I got a booth quickly as I perused the dinner menu. I was confused as the dinner menu seemed to be a riff on southern/Cajun food. This was the same as another failed breakfast place I had been to in the area, and that ended poorly.


I ordered coffee and looked over the breakfast menu already knowing what I was going to get. Pretty standard breakfast fare except they have waffles instead of pancakes and they also have 7 grain porridge along with a breakfast burrito and “HOLY CRAP, real bacon! They accidentally tried to deliver a plate to my table that had bacon the size, shape and thickness of my 7th grade Rossi ROC 210cm skis! For those not well versed in late 70’s ski equipment, suffice it to say the bacon is beautiful. I ordered up my breakfast (Corned Beef hash with poached eggs, hash browns and rye toast) I asked for the dinner menu to read while I waited.


Sufficiently impressed by the dinner menu and the Bacon I saw earlier, I was cautiously optimistic about breakfast. When it arrived I began to tear up a bit while I took a couple of pictures. Perfect, absolutely perfect to look at in every way except I noticed only one poached egg, the waitress assured me the chef had messed one up and the other would be out in seconds. I couldn’t understand what I was hearing so I asked her, “He did what?” She said, “The egg wasn’t right so he’s doing another one.” I can’t remember when if ever, I’ve heard a waitperson say a cook wanted to make something right for breakfast. Usually they will put it in front of you as if, I dare you to tell me it’s wrong.


The food tasted as amazing as it looked. The hash browns were brown and crisp, but at the same time fluffy with a hint of creaminess. The corned beef was shredded and the carrots were still a bit toothsome with potato and onion serving a supporting role as the corned beef was the star being both perfectly cooked and abundant. The marbled rye toast was a perfect complement to the meal as it was local and very tasty.  Just a really super breakfast all around, and I’m blushing a bit because I feel giddy like a six year old school girl about breakfast again, and it’s about time! I can’t wait to try everything on the menu.


So if you’re within, oh I dunno…three hours of Portland Maine and you’re looking for something to eat for breakfast, wing on in to Hot Suppa and get some Corned Beef Hash, you’ll be glad you did. Don’t go to that same old place that doesn’t care about you or your breakfast food, daring you to find something wrong with it then further daring for you to speak up about it. You know afterwards you’ll feel more ashamed than a whore in church on Sunday after just getting paid. I’m so excited about this place, I can’t wait to go there for dinner!

Hot Suppa
703 Congress St.
Portland, ME 04102
207-871-5005

TOTINO’S AND THE BRUINS

You ever have one of those nights where you just don’t feel like cooking? Last night was “that night”. I sometimes stroll through the frozen section looking at the frozen prepackaged meals to get a little inspiration, then set off to collect ingredients for my version of whatever frozen hell I just left. Since I wasn’t that hungry, (because of a late lunch) nothing really sparked my enthusiasm.


Determined to go home and pick at leftovers, I headed for the door. Just as I was about to leave the frozen aisle something caught my eye, a bag of Combination flavored Totino’s Pizza Rolls. SCOOOORE!!! BOBBY ORR!!!….in my head all I could hear was John Cusick the play by play announcer for the Boston Bruins in the early seventies?! What the…


I remember being a kid in Worcester, MA and my father would have friends over to watch the Bruins play. One of the go to favorites was Totino’s.  I remember them coming out of the oven, and aside from being almost crunchy in texture, they were also lava hot and had a ton of flavor. Nice hunks of pepperoni, a nice sausage flavor and gooey cheese. It was a test of will’s putting one in your mouth for the first five minutes or so.


So I bought a bag, and filled with nostalgia…headed for home. I cooked them as instructed for the oven (is there any other way?!) and like a kid looking through the window on a rainy day, just waiting for them to be done. Scanning through the channels I looked for a Bruins game, then any game…Oh crap! I then remembered that hockey is coming off the All-Star break, so no hockey. Just then the oven timer sounded….it won’t be the same without hockey, but the taste alone will sure bring back some great memories. I peeked back through the window and waited another minute or so until I caught one just starting to spill its guts (guts term, compliments of Robyn Lee)…the magic moment had arrived!


I fixed myself a drink and headed for the living room. Now mind you, I have had Totino’s since the Bruin’s 71’-72’ season. Maybe as often as twice a year, but I’ll level with you kind people if you promise to keep this between us. Whenever I find myself eating pizza rolls, it’s usually because I’m looking to counteract my medicine. (Pointing at a bottle of Jameson) So, I can’t say that my palate would have been what one might call…”sharp.” “How far back” you ask?… I’d say, in or around 1987. So now, with a clear mind and palate… I grabbed my plate.


OK, so here comes the battle of mind over lava. I have a particular way of eating pizza rolls that I have developed over the years, designed to prevent the flash searing and instant blistering of the skin on the roof of my mouth. I pinch the pizza roll guts towards one end, and like a tube of toothpaste out they come. This saves you from doing the “Curly” while eating them. Then I eat the pizza roll “shell” as it were, after.


The first problem was, neither was very good by itself. So I decided to try eating them the way I used to when I was a kid by biting one down through the middle. Keep in mind I had only eaten one at this point and they had been out of the oven perhaps 3 minutes tops. Biting down through the middle was more or less hot, but not scalding as I had remembered. Problem number two, the texture was off, more spongy than crunchy.  Also, I actually think they are smaller than they used to be. Maybe because either I have sausage fingers now, or had tiny tyrannosaurus rex kid’s hand back then.


I tried a few more trying to get my taste buds around something that didn’t resemble  pepperoni, sausage or even cheese…I don’t know what the cheese tasted like, as it all more or less tasted the same. Like spaghetti sauce cooked by someone who had never heard of spaghetti sauce, based on a recipe by someone who had never tasted spaghetti sauce before. I read the package and found that there is no real cheese or real anything else for that matter…..ugggh! On top of that…trans-fat, 1gram every 6 rolls…Yaaaay Suckville!


I ate a few more as I thought about how they had changed.  I ate them in silence remembering how disappointed my father was when I told him I was a Montreal fan, and only now realizing this is how he must have felt. The one thing that I thought I could count on, to remind me of those Bruins games with my dad…were gone forever…


Or at least until the next time I’ve had one too many Jameson’s and The Cat is walking around in a Bruin’s jersey talking smack … Vive Les Habitants!

SKY BAR AT THE LAKE

Ah Haaaaa! You thought this was about a bar didn’t you?! What ever would make you think I’d hang out at a bar?! Anywhoway, this is about one of those old school candy bars…the Sky Bar. You know the one, it’s got four distinct flavors in one candy bar, fudge, caramel, peanut and vanilla nougat. Yeah, that one! Well I was checking out of the grocery store yesterday and I saw one. I thought…what was my brother always going on about?!


Back in what seems like the 1700’s, my brother and I would ride our bikes to the lake and spend the day swimming and eating whatever we had brought for a bag lunch. My parents would give us each a dollar so we could get a soda and perhaps an Ice Cream, or candy at the snack bar at the beach side shop. Yes, I know people… today my parents would be locked up in a Siberian gulag, and be part of the twenty four hour news cycle on TV for child abuse, for actually giving us money for the purpose of buying candy or soda.


But remember dear PC people, this was the 70’s and 80’s, before candy was evil. This was also a time when kids did stuff like…play outside, used their imaginations, climbed trees, rode bikes without helmets, had and used cap guns without being arrested….. They weren’t sitting in front of an XBox game console while texting the friend who was sitting right next to them! Mine and my brothers cell phone came in the form of a dime, tucked into that awful little cheese cloth pocket inside of our swim trunks that only seemed good for holding on to copius amounts of sand. So please cut mom and dad a bit of slack.


I was no dummy when it came to candy bars. I wanted the biggest bang for my buck and almost without fail, would make a grab for a strawberry Charleston Chew which they kept in a fridge so you could crack them on the table and eat them in pieces. My other go to was the Zero, and the reason I liked that one was because it’s super dense and no chocolate…I reasoned it to be packed with goodness and because there was no chocolate, HEALTHY! I was looking at it as a 70’s version of the Powerbar.


My brother was a little more discerning in his selection. He would reason that he wanted a variety of different flavors to savor, so he almost always got the Sky Bar. We would sit on the back steps of the snack shack and I would tear into my candy bar with reckless abandon as I knew with a Charleston Chew, if you didn’t start strong, your jaw would seize up like the tin woodsman in “The Wizard of Oz” and you’d be left with a melted mess. This was a candy bar only those with a bionic jaw could finish in one fail swoop. 


Meanwhile there were only four measly pieces for my brother to eat. I’d be working my candy bar like a man on a mission watching as he’d put a piece of his into his mouth and just sit back and let it melt to the center where he could first enjoy the chocolate, then the center at different times. More times than not I’d be done with my candy bar and be waiting for him to finish his. Sensing an opportunity to have not only my candy bar but a piece of his was too much. I would always ask for some, but alas, he never relented. I had to sit for what must have seemed like forever for an eleven or twelve year old, to watch in silence while he finished his Sky Bar…Until today…


Sky Bar is manufactured by the New England Confectionery Company out of Revere, MA. It was introduced in a revolutionary skywriting campaign in 1938. To this day it is the only candy bar that has four distinct separate flavors. The first flavor I go for is the fudge…


Uh, fudge…Ok, I guess that’s a fudgey flavor, but to be honest I’ve always thought chocolate when I think fudge so ok, it’s fudge…after that first piece I still get that sort of sour chocolate flavor you get after you eat a Hershey bar…it just sort of hangs there in the back of your throat. Can’t say I’m a fan, but I move on to the vanilla…


The vanilla is fine, I’m not sure why they don’t call it marshmallow, but hey…it’s not my candy company so vanilla it is. It does have a distinct vanilla flavor but it is somewhat overpowered by the chocolate flavor that’s hanging around in the back of my throat….. maybe I’d better have some water to “cleanse the palate.”


I go with the peanut next. It starts out as chocolate and slowly but surely the peanut starts to appear, and intensifies just a bit before again being outshined by the sourish chocolate… I can’t believe my brother found this taste that appealing. But I guess as kids of the seventies and eighties, after eating our share of Jumbo Pixie Stix, Sweet Tarts and Tootsie Rolls, this was probably high end chocolate to our well muted sugar coated tongues….anyways on to the caramel…..


The caramel was last as I always eat things in order of least to most favorite. This is why the vegetables go first, then the starch followed slowly by the protein….mmmm….GO MEAT! So the caramel, was fine if not good but the overlying problem with this candy bar was the chocolate. I suppose if I had eaten it a lot when I was a kid, it would have provoked memories of the warm sand and cool water of Swanzey Lake… but instead it made me wish I had a Zero bar and the balogna and American cheese sandwich with mustard mom would have packed, just to get the taste of that chocolate out of my mouth!


What kind of soda did I get you ask? I didn’t… there was a water bubbler out back of the Snack Shack, I usually just doubled up on candy bars or bought a pack of Topps baseball cards and flipped through them while chewing that cardboard flavored gum. This would have been done after lunch while waiting the excruciatingly painful thirty minutes you had to wait before going back into the water so you wouldn’t get cramps and die…or was that ten minutes? Sorry mom…