Category Archives: lobster pots

Rolling with Laughter

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Coworkers are my source of humor and constancy in my daily routine.

We tend to miss each other over weekends, sometimes I feel it is due

to our being ‘displaced’ from our lines of preferred professions. All of

my fellow table mates at lunch and break were in other jobs before they

came to work at the warehouse.

When Melvin went off to Massachusetts, the week seemed to drag

forever.

 

This week, just the first three days already, have been hysterical. He

regales us with tall tales of lobster 3 or 4 times eaten daily. He is also

teaching us more and more about the Army life he led.

 

You may remember a long ago post about Melvin being raised by

parents from an island. By the time they came to America, they had

chosen Massachusetts as their home. I think the link, “cous cous” may

connect you to that story. . . We feel this is an interesting ‘thread’ that

connects the two of us. Since my Mom’s parents were both immigrants,

meeting on a street corner in New York City, but choosing to live in

Connecticut. My Grandpa’s father had chosen Massachusetts, where

my Grandpa went to school and his sister lived there, once adults.

Grandpa had moved away from there to go to the engineering or

‘technical college’ in New York City. He knows we both like many of

the New England specialties, too.

 

Melvin had been a good student in school. He decided to go into the

Army to get a ‘free education.’ Instead, he found his true interest or

“calling” in cooking. He did not go to culinary arts institute. He went

to Germany while in the Army, where he had an amazing time learning

about German food preparation. Then, he followed this with his next

tour of duty being spent on the Army base in Hawaii. Where native

fresh fruits are part of the daily Army diet. He excitedly described to us

at break today, they are also cut specially into shapes like lotus flowers

and birds, presented on the platters as ‘garnishes.’

We pursued this culinary specialty subject awhile, “Not in Officer’s

Club, but Mess Hall grub has garnishes?”

“Yes,” Melvin intoned then elaborating, “The different things you

can create varies from vegetables to fruits. A large melon, zucchini,

radishes or apples you make sliced criss-crosses, blanch them in

boiling water and quickly place them in icy water. The hot water gets

them to open up like a lotus blossom.”

He added, “Did you know that the Army never adds new amounts

of a food to an older dish?” (You know how while at a buffet or a

salad bar, they add more potato salad to the old? Nope, this NEVER

happens in the Army dining room!)

 

So, Melvin brought me the delicious German wine last year, which

he mentioned that in Germany at Christmas, the shops downtown

have little tables of treats and ‘shot glasses’ of drinks. They also warm

their wines and give out tastes of these. He contributed to my sense

of ‘culture’ while I shared this with my Mom and family last year.

Mom said a toast in German, which was one about health and love.

(My Mom’s mother was born in Germany. She told me to thank

Melvin. He had bought this on the Rickenbacker Air Force base,

as a gift to me. So thoughtful, you can see why he is a ‘keeper,’

when it comes to friends!)

 

Another morsel he shared with us was of an Army skill he acquired

while in Germany. He informed us they would bring in huge blocks

of ice and there would be one skilled ice sculptor who would create

lovely centerpieces for Army banquets at holidays. He apprenticed

and learned this amazing skill.

Again, we asked Melvin, “Do you mean ordinary Army enlisted men

would have banquets with carved ice decorations on their tables?”

We were incredulous. I am hoping there may be some enlisted men

from the past, who will confirm this outlandish ‘story.’

Really, please let me know. . .

“Yes,” Melvin looked and sounded like he had the Bible and would

“solemnly swear that this was the truth, the whole truth, so help

him God.”

Melvin then proceeded to tell us about mountains, ski cabins and

other etchings in his German ice sculptures. Then, he decided to

mention how he created elaborate Hawaiian ice sculptures with

volcanoes, trees and ocean waves along beaches. He had learned

how to, sculpt detailed floral arrangements out of ice. We wished

he had photographs but we believe his stories.

 

So, when Melvin got back from Massachusetts, we listened to how

he and his ‘my lady’ had lobster omelets, lobster rolls and lobster

linguini. He emphatically repeated this annoying part (we were

jealous, that is why we were annoyed), “I ate lobster 3 or 4 times

a day!” Upon repetition,  we still did not roll our eyes, since he was

entertaining us quite brilliantly. Never a dull moment at the good,

old warehouse with Melvin around.

 

Melvin’s accent had changed over his one week “Back home, out East.”

He vocalizes the sound of his “r’s” to “h’s” so his car was a “cah.” You

could close your eyes and imagine a Kennedy speaking. He sounds so

“cultured.” We tell him he should take his “lady friend” to England

and get their full ‘edification.’ Come back with a British accent. Then,

being the dramatic ‘ham’ that he is, he put his little pinky out and

pretended to hold a tea cup and saucer. He attempted an imitation

British tea party, exclaiming “Cheerio, my deah ones, we need to

order some crumpets and scones.”

 

Melvin told us how offended he was McDonald’s thinks “frappes”

sound like “frapays” while most New Englanders know “frappes”

rhyme with “wraps.” The real ‘frappes’ are delicious old fashioned

milk shakes made of real ice cream and whole milk, with flavors with

real chocolate syrup or real whipped cream. It makes me think of the

rants that began with this funny question, “Don’t you understand the

words that are coming out of my mouth?” from the two movies, with

Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in “Rush Hour’ (one and two.)

 

Whenever Melvin opens his mouth, we laugh. He is full of spirit, likes

to tease and pull your leg. There is always a chance,  at any moment,

for his voice to  become high-pitched and indignant about something.

This is what he calls his “Ohio homey’s” slang and attitude.

 

The story Melvin finished with was about his days of being the Head

Cook at the Marysville Penitentiary. He claims that at any point in

time, you could run into a sister of a male inmate, while she is in

the female cellblocks. Or a mother! There was a special occasion,

where the Warden had arranged for a comedienne named, Monique,

to entertain the inmates. She is a known African American stand-up

comic, who uses ‘blue’ (vulgar) humor in her sketches and anecdotes.

Melvin smiled wide, snorting while remembering some of the skits

or jokes she told.

Melvin finally stopped laughing and  said, “The Warden got up from

his seat in the front of the room, apparently unaware of her type of

humor, with a bright red face, looking down as he walked to the back

of the room, quietly exiting. Everyone clapped and hooted, encouraging

this Monique to ‘carry on,’ with her crass jokes.”

 

I had a chance to change the subject at second break and told my

good friends that yesterday was the 51st anniversary of Push Button

Telephones. (I had already decided to post about the serious subject

of Malala and her Nobel Peace Prize.) So, you are finding this fact

out a day later than my coworkers!

 

ATT first presented these new phones to Pennsylvania residents on

November 18, 1963. The original Push Button phones had only ten

buttons, while in 1968 they added two more buttons (#) and (*). This

squared off phone replaced my favorite old fashioned  rotary phone.

Going along with the raucous humor and our improved mood, since

it was our Melvin’s long-lost return, we used our fingers to squeeze

our noses, to make our vocalizations to sound nasal and together

we imitated one of the greatest comedians ever, Lily Tomlin, by

chanting:

“One ringy dingy, two ringy dingy” and so forth, making the funny

character of the old time operator from variety shows of the 60’s

of “Ernestine,” come back alive. Tammy and I were rolling while

Melvin, who is a great imitator of voices, was pretending to be

the character.

 

In honor of Melvin, though, I will tell you his favorite singer is not

who you would expect. If you remember my post, “Someone Saved

My Life Today,” you may remember Melvin loves Elton John, so

does his girlfriend. The songs he says are ones that get him up and

dancing are:

“Honky Cat” and “Crocodile Rock.”

Melvin is one ‘hep cat’ who knows how to ‘jive!’

 

November Story

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“The First Thanksgiving” is more than a great book about Thanksgiving,

it is one that encompasses Plymouth Rock and how the area first got

settled. I read this with my oldest three grandchildren, one is 9 and

the others are 8 years old. It was written in 1993, by Jean Craighead

George and illustrated by Thomas Locker.

This book starts out with lovely and dark “paintings” of Cape Cod and

it describes how the mountains of gravel came from the Ice Age that

deposited along the coast of New England. It tells that above the top

of the gravel, the glacier deposited huge boulders from distant places.

This became known as Plymouth Harbor.

The unusual facts about the boulders, include how they are called

“Dedham granite” and they are believed to have arrived from Africa

over 200 million years ago. This is when the continents, scientists say,

broke apart and floated to their current locations.

The largest rock, all 200 tons of it, is described:

“It came to rest in lonely splendor, on a sandy beach in a cove.

This boulder is Plymouth Rock.”

Somehow, years later, this area became inhabited by the Pawtuxets,

a tribe of the Wampanoag:  “The People of the Dawn.”

Their customs included thanking Mother Earth for Her harvests of corn,

beans, squash and pumpkins. They hunted deer, turkey and fished the

ocean and streams. Their celebration annually was named the “Green

Corn Dance” which lasted many days.

In the 1600’s, Englishmen arrived on big ships killing animals with guns

and kidnapped some of the Wampanoag men for slaves. Indians were

afraid of the newcomers, white men, with their loud weapons.

On man tricked to come aboard a ship with the 17 Pawtuxet men, was

named Squanto. His life is complicated, being traded from England to

Spain to eventually Newfoundland, sailing back to London and then

finally back to New England (America) in 1619. When he arrived back

and saw his village, many tears were wept for the homes were merely

skeletons and the mighty crops were reduced to weeds.  All of his

people he believed were dead of European plague.

I thought I might “pause” in this devastatingly real and sad story to

tell you that the grandkids were fascinated. I asked if they were a

little sad, they said, “Yes, but Nana, tell us the rest of the story!”

Squanto traveled northward to Maine, where he joined the tribe

named Massasoit. They were a branch of the Wampanoag Indian

community where he felt accepted.

During this time, over in England, King Jame I was making everyone

join the Church of England. There was a group of people known as

the Puritans, who when they traveled across the ocean, became

known as the “Pilgrims.” Their great ship was called the “Mayflower.”

Their arrival to the New World, was on December 11, 1620. They

landed on Plymouth Harbor beach. The sight of Plymouth Rock.

Once ithe Pilgrims arrived,  they called the natives or citizens that

belonged there, “savages.”

Their Governor John Carver and the Pilgrims all struggled through

the winter, until they were able to plant the seeds they had brought.

The women planted English herbs in “kitchen gardens.” The men

dug deeper into the land, creating huge gardens of vegetables,

wheat and barley.

Samoset, a Massasoit Ambassador, traveled to greet the Pilgrims

in English. They formed a “Peace Treaty” and the Massasoits stayed

in Rhode Island, while Squanto stayed behind in Plymouth.

Squanto showed the men how to catch hibernating eels, showed

them where the herring ran in the Spring, and taught them how

to make “weirs” and nets to catch cod and salmon. He also showed

them how to put herring in the holes they dug for planting, along

with 4-5 corn kernels in the soil. This was not noted as “first use

of fertilizer” but I thought this was very interesting, as did the kids!

The seeds that Squanto shared were considered by historians, ones

from ancestors as far away as Mexico and Peru. These included corn,

squash and pumpkins.

Squanto also taught them where to hunt for the turkeys, showed them

leaf nests of squirrels adn the hideouts of skunks and raccoons. The

Pilgrims were shown where there were blueberry patches to pick from.

In the Late Spring, meadows were filled with wild strawberries where

the children could pick also, sweet roots of Jerusalem artichoke.

In the Mid Summer, cranberry bogs and gooseberry patches’ locations

were shown and shared.

In September, chestnuts, hickory nuts and hazelnuts were found on the

ground under their trees.

The boys were taught how to make dugout canoes and paddle out into

the sea to set lobster pots, made of reeds and sinew. There were all

kinds of edible creatures in the tidal pools to show the Pilgrims, too.

Philosophy of the Native Americans which is the tenet in why Squanto

shared his learnings:

“The Land did not belong to the people; People belong to the Land.”

Such a peaceful and meaningful message right there!

When the following harvest came, after all that Squanto had taught

the Pilgrims, they felt the need to rejoice and invite the Massasoits

to join them in a Feast. Governor William Bradford sent a message

of invitation and the response was 90 guests! For three days they

shared the Feast, played games and the Pilgrims shared their guns

in contests. The Native Americans shared their bows and arrows,

using targets to just enjoy the harvest.

When I heard of the games, shooting for pleasure and the many

dishes that they ate, I thought, WE should do this, too! How many

people sit down and watch football or some form of stationary

activities after they eat their Thanksgiving dinner? We all should

hike around, play games and enjoy each other’s company!

The end of the book summarizes that the Pilgrims called this day a

“Harvest Feast” and the Native Americans called it the “Green Corn

Dance.” They must have included dancing, but the book did not

mention it specifically, it did not show any dancing in the beautiful

painted pictures.

President George Washington declared and named the first national

Proclamation of celebrating Thanksgiving during his Presidency.

President Abraham Lincoln named the annual day of Thanksgiving

to be the last Thursday of November and called it a day of

“thanksgiving and praise.”

In my family, we include two types of meats, two types of dressings,

usually more grilled or fresh vegetables lately (not so many casseroles)

and our big splurges on calories and not so healthy food are lots of

pies and two kinds of potatoes, both baked. Sometimes I will drive

home from my brother and sister in law’s house in Cleveland missing

my Mom as I drive. She and my brothers and sometimes my sister in

law’s children will be there but the rest of my own family are back in’

Delaware.

After my “goodbyes,” I head directly to my son’s house, where Jamie

and Trista still serves green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, corn

pudding, hamburger mixed in with onions in the stuffing, sweet potato

casserole with marshmallows and pecans mixed in. We finish our meal

with pumpkin pie served with whipped cream in a can (not Cool Whip.)

We eat white rolls with real butter, too!

What are some of your favorite foods, your traditions and if you are

from another country, do you have a harvest time meal?