After a spiceless youth: “Once I discovered just how tasty food could be, I couldn’t get enough.”

Live and learn!

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “The Egg and I, and other tasty dishes on the menu.

“My mother was perfect in almost every way, just as long as you weren’t expecting gourmet meals at her table. Actually, if you were expecting a tad of salt or pepper, you would be disappointed.

“It certainly didn’t matter to any of us, because we had never had our taste buds developed to know what we were missing until we entered the wide world and discovered restaurants. I could write a lot about the fond memories I have of the many fine old dining establishments in Minneapolis, but this is about the two I frequented on a typical day at work.

“Once I discovered just how tasty food could be, I couldn’t get enough. My oldest sister had gone through the same enlightenment at my age, so she had me step on the scale every time I came to her house. I bounced around the 108-110 weight range, and if she saw that I had gained to, say, 112 pounds, she warned me it was time to give up one of my breakfasts for a week or so. That always took care of it.

“Mother fixed me a cup of cocoa and a slice of buttered toast before I caught the Greyhound bus for my 30-minute ride to work. I arrived in downtown Minneapolis still hungry — and with 15 minutes to spare, I had just enough time to run next door to the coffee shop, the Land of Lakes Coney Island, for a quick second breakfast. The owner was a nice, fatherly old gentleman, and after several days of watching me wolf down a piece of toast while gulping my coffee, he urged me to try one of his fried eggs. (I had never eaten a fried egg. Mom made only scrambled eggs: little round, spongy morsels similar to chewing a gum eraser.) I kept turning him down until the day he brought a beautiful picture-perfect fried egg to my booth, set the plate down and said: ‘This one is on me. After you eat it, I guarantee you will like fried eggs.’ Boy, was he right.

“I had my third breakfast on my morning break, about 10 o’clock, at the Gopher Café, on the corner diagonally across from our radio station.

“I was really hungry by then, so I often ordered a slice of apple pie with melted cheese on top to hold me off until lunch. The first week I worked at the radio station, I had simply ordered the pie with a slice of cheese on the side, but one happy day my favorite waitress winked at me and said: ‘Try it this way. I put it under the broiler and melted the cheese. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay for it.’ Did I like it? Silly question.

“My lunch hour wasn’t until 1 o’clock, and the Gopher Café had my favorite item on their menu: a steak sandwich with all the trimmings, for $1.25. One time when my brother-in-law was on a break from his announcing duties, he and I went out to lunch at the same time; he ordered the chicken basket, and I ordered my usual. I finished my steak sandwich long before he was half through, and when he saw me greedily salivating at his lunch, he rather sarcastically said: ‘Well, why don’t you order one for yourself?’ I did. The waitress brought the chicken in a take-out box, and to her surprise I opened it and dug right in. I was finished before he was through with his lunch. My dear brother-in-law, the guy who had been my adored relative since I was 8 years
old, gave me a withering look and said through clenched teeth: ‘This is the last time I will ever eat with you in a public place.’

“I took my midafternoon break about 3 or 3:30, and my standard order was for an egg-salad sandwich and another piece of apple pie with cheese. I needed to fortify myself because I never knew what Mom had planned for supper. During hot summer days, Mom often just sliced up some tomatoes and served them with watermelon and potato chips, so it was a good idea to not come home with an empty stomach. One afternoon, a couple of guys from our sales staff were in the Gopher with a group of car salesmen from down the street, and when I walked in, my co-workers politely beckoned me over to their table to introduce me, asking them: ‘Have you ever met our new Copy Writer?’ The baboons laughed uproariously and said: ‘Do you mean Miss Digestive Tract of 1952? No, not officially.’”

Know thy people!

The Happy Medium: “Subject: Scandinavian Lutherans.

“After I retired, I became a delegate to our yearly ELCA synod meetings in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. This one time, our pastor drove John, Janet and me to the conference. Janet and I sat in the back and reminisced about our Sunday School days, confirmation and our parents.

“Long story short: Janet said that her father was not demonstrative about his feelings. He never hugged, for instance. She told of the day her father’s siblings gathered for a family reunion. They hadn’t seen each other for several years. She remembers that when they did gather for this special occasion, they shook hands. I told her that Dad always shook hands with his brother, sisters and in-laws when they met.

“I shared this little vignette with a friend of mine, to which she quickly replied: ‘Of course they shook hands. They were glad to see one another.’

“You can’t be a Scandinavian Lutheran for nothing.”

Could be verse!
Know Thyself Division

From Eos: “It’s a pain in the royal patoot,

“the state of my birthday suit.

“It’s wrinkled and dotted

“and saggy and spotted,

“and it certainly isn’t cute.

“But profound lessons I’ve learned —

“every spot, every wrinkle was earned.

“It still fits on my frame,

“and my heart’s still the same,

“so, I won’t let myself be concerned.”

Our wild (or otherwise) animals, ourselves

Zoo Lou of St. Paul: “Subject: On High Alert.

“I was watching a remarkable wildlife show recently on the National Geographic channel that featured the trials and travails of a pride of lions. While these noble creatures were on the hunt one day, there were some brief close-ups of greater kudu antelopes, who were on high alert after sensing the presence of the big cats. One of those images looked very much like a picture I took years ago of one of our kudus, a female named Jenny, when I was a keeper at Como Zoo. Illuminated by the soft, late-afternoon sunlight, this beautiful portrait of Jenny was absolutely stunning. 

“I also have vivid memories of another time I saw greater kudus on high alert, and it wasn’t because of the presence of predators. It was on May 13, 1994, the day Casey the gorilla escaped from his outdoor exhibit at Como Zoo. One of the first things he did was attempt to go over the fence into the kudu yard, which had these skittish antelopes frozen with fear. Fortunately, Casey backed away. If he had gone into the yard, it could have been a disaster, with the kudus being seriously injured or killed trying to elude the gorilla in their midst.     

“After this nervous moment, Casey, to the immense relief of the kudus (and myself and the rest of the staff), ambled over to the concession stand, where he sat on a table as if he were ready to order lunch. But he never did get any service, perhaps because they wouldn’t take an IOU, even though Casey was one of the zoo’s star attractions.     

“Casey eventually returned to the gorilla exhibit on his own, without incident. It’s much nicer to remember that amusing scenario at the concession stand, rather than all of the bad things that could have happened, especially to the kudus.”

’Tis the season — still?

Mama G of Roseville reports: “I, too, am one of those crazy people who put up a tree for Christmas and then change out decorations for subsequent holidays. I have been known to keep a tree going until after the Fourth of July.

“Above is my Valentine’s Day version.”

Our trees, ourselves

John in Highland: “Subject: Last of the Old Elms on Beechwood.

“When we moved into our home on Beechwood Avenue 40 years ago, the street was lined with alternating large elm and ash trees. The elms were threatened by the Dutch elm bark beetle and were slowly dying. Today there is only one left on our block. The disease had first appeared along Grand Avenue in the 1960s. We were lucky in that the disease progressed relatively slowly, unlike in cities such as Rockford, Illinois, where all of the elms were gone within a few years. The slower spread here allowed gradual replacement of the elms with other types of trees, principally ashes.

“Unfortunately, the ash trees are now threatened by another invasive insect, the emerald ash borer. All of the ash trees on our block have been marked for removal, save for a few that have been treated. Credit must be given to the Forestry Department, which has already started working on the enormous task of taking down and replacing all of the ash trees in the city.

“On a positive note: Ash trees are being replaced with a variety of other trees, including types of maples and oaks, hackberries, Kentucky coffee trees, honey locusts, and even disease-resistant elm trees. All of us can help in maintaining our ‘urban forest.’ If you are lucky enough to receive a new tree on your boulevard, keep it watered during warm weather.”

The Permanent Maternal Record
And: Oh, and was his face red!

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Geeze, Mom!

“As I sat at the River Falls clinic yesterday waiting for my COVID shot, I remembered the last time I experienced a mass immunization — back in the late 1950s, for polio.

“I stood in a long line in my grade-school gym with about a hundred other kids to get a dreaded shot. I can still smell the alcohol and remember clearly getting closer and closer to bittersweet immunity.

“The primarily childhood epidemic that often led to iron lungs terrified my mother for about two years as Dr. Salk worked diligently and became a national hero. When she read the headline, she screamed and jumped for joy and cried.

“I was kind of embarrassed by all of that.”

This ’n’ that ’n’ the other

All from Al B of Hartland: (1) “I’ve learned:

“Thanks to wearing a mask, ventriloquism has never been easier.

“The only salt substitute we had when I was growing up was pepper.

“There are few unforgettable experiences.”

(2) “Birds are meant to invoke awe and wonder. A love of birds is a reason to go outside. I’m constantly amazed as I watch birds trying to make a living. No bird carries a wallet or a purse. They survive without a credit card. It was -23 degrees, and the house sparrows were chirping merrily. It invigorated this listener.”

(3) “A friendly chickadee landed on a feeder while I was filling it. It snacked on nyjer seeds. I don’t see chickadees as regular consumers of those thistle seeds.

“I’m seeing flocks of horned larks. Some spend the winter in southern Minnesota. The horned larks that migrated south begin returning north into Minnesota in early February.

“A cardinal and a house sparrow are each missing a tail in my yard. If a feather is broken, it remains broken until the next molt. If a feather is pulled out, regrowth begins immediately. I doubt it’s a fraternity initiation. Birds could lose their tail feathers in a fright molt while trying to avoid being captured. Those feathers come out easily, leaving the would-be predator with a mouthful of feathers. Tails are important, but not critical to survival.”

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede is, as you know, a four-season shutterbug: “Subject: Five frost and ‘stars’ photos.

“When I go out in the morning to get the newspaper, the warmer moist air from the house hits the storm-door glass and makes it look foggy. The cold turns some of that into frost crystals that I thought I would share with BB readers.

“Near the bottom of the window are a lot of thin, straight lines. I assume those are wipe marks on the glass from when I washed the window in the fall.
You can’t see them unless the frost forms on them.

“This cluster of crystals somehow has a ‘happy’ look to it.

“The cold weather we have had, with the clear skies, produces a mass of sparkles I could see through one of our lower bedroom, ground-level windows.

“And when I adjusted the light balance so the snow would disappear, the crystals turned into a starry night. I’ve often thought of them as twinkling stars, and this adjustment made them appear even more so.

“Nature’s a beauty in this cold weather! Keep it up, ‘Mother’!”

The verbing of America

Donald: “‘Hiawatha golf course has a lesson to teach’ is the title of a column on the front page of the MINNESOTA section in the February 9th edition of the paper west of St. Paul.The continuation of the column on Page B5 included this: ‘In addition to Frankensteining a lake into a golf course, Wirth straightened Minnehaha Creek . . .'”

Unfamiliar quotations (responsorial)

In this space on December 30, 2020 (and in the newsprinted Sunday Bulletin Board in the Pioneer Press of January 3, 2021), we heard from Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Heinlein quotes.

“While looking for a (science-fiction writer) Robert A. Heinlein quote
about railroading, I found these by him on

“‘Never try to outstubborn a cat.’

“‘Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to
find easier ways to do something.’

“‘Butterflies are self-propelled flowers.’

“‘Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.’

“Note: I won’t quote what he says about women. Many of those statements make me want to dig him up and shoot him — were I a person who did
things like that.”

Subsequently, we heard from The OOK of Stipple-Apa: “Subject: Doppelganger?

“I enjoyed a reader’s letter on January 3, then realized it could have been written by one of our apa (amateur press association, a penpal publication) members. For example, she reads science fiction, several other members of the apa are railroad fans, and she’s a feminist. I was stunned when [the other member] said that she did not write the letter!

“I wonder how many other people see letters that sound so much like people they know.

“And hey, Kathy S., we’re always looking for new members!”

The Permanent Grandparental Record

Kathy S. of St. Paul writes: “Subject: ‘Hacks’ from my grandparents.

“Having a friend living in frozen Texas, with power and heat out, has me thinking of survival tactics, and of my grandparents.

“Grandma and Grandpa built their house in the wilds of Richfield circa 1933. Guests who came in the front door entered a small foyer off the living room. In the wintertime, a heavy tapestry or blanket was hung on a rod over the opening from this vestibule to the house. It was to block drafts and save on heating. As a little kid (and future engineer), I found it fascinating; I remember being told to leave it alone.

“The news tonight reminded me of this simple energy saver. Some Texas folks had lost much or all of their heat. They taped the seams of their door and placed (plastic?) over part of it, to stop drafts. I wanted to hang something like grandpa’s tapestry over their door to help them. But of course I can’t.

“The back door of the 1930s house was also interesting. We climbed the few steps to a square unheated space with large windows and the outer door on three of the four sides. The fourth side held the door to the kitchen. Being the ‘back’ door, most people entered the house this way. But it served as another airlock into the house.

“Along the bottom of the far wall of this space was a large built-in horizonal locker accessed by lifting the simple hinged doors on top. It had multiple uses, including food storage. Later I think it held sports equipment, but back then it made a good space to sit down to remove rubber boots from shoes — back when many people pulled ‘rubbers’ over their shoes.

“But my strongest memory of this house’s back stoop was of Grandma standing in the doorway as my family drove away, waving and wishing us ‘safe home.’ In 1995, I learned from Grandma’s distant cousin in County Cork that Irish folks used to say a blessing as people came into their homes, and another as they left. The leave-taking blessing was, basically, Safe Home. Grandma’s father grew up in County Cork, so I assume Grandma learned that from him.

“My grandparents were born in the 1870s and 1880s, and grew up poor, on farms. I can’t help thinking that current-day designers could learn something from the way people made things work, back then.”

The vision thing

Rusty of St. Paul: “I canceled my yearly eye-doctor appointment because of COVID. I need a new prescription. Plus, the antiglare coating has scraped away from both lenses in the central vision, so those areas are foggy. Plus, I am a senior citizen so my eyesight is crummy anyways.

“Today I am trying to read the Pioneer Press. I am reading an article that included the name of a former independent presidential candidate, Evan McMullin. However, my eyes saw and my brain translated: ‘Evan McMuffin.’ I said to myself: ‘That can’t be.’ I tried again. Yep, his name is Evan McMuffin! I had to remove my glasses and get closer to the screen to find out my brain was incorrect.

“I then turned my attention to the Op-Ed page. A piece by Faye Flam almost was written by ‘Flim Flam.’ I read her last name first; then my eyes and brain returned to her last name, thinking it was her first, and read ‘Flim.'”

The vision thing
Headline Division

Calani in Isle: “Headline in an ad in the February 21 edition of your paper: ‘We Pay Top Dollar For Your Used Vinyl.’ First thought was how great that would be when I re-side my house this spring; all my used vinyl siding won’t have to go into the Dumpster.

“Oh, wait a minute, vinyl record. Well, I have some of those, too.”

Band Name of the Day: The Royal Patoots

Website of the Day, recommended by The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield: “These are amazing: Travel Photographer of the Year 2020 — in pictures

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