Exactly what she had in mind!
Ramblin’ Rose reports: “Subject: The Velveeta Vindication.
“I am vindicated! No longer will I have to suffer the exchange of sly glances, raised eyebrows, or comments of ‘Interesting’ or ‘That’s different,’ the height of Minnesotan passive-aggressive non-statements. No, I can hold my head high as I report that Velveeta has been confirmed as the main ingredient of choice for mac-and-cheese.
“Who confirmed this? None other than Justin Sutherland — celebrity chef, cookbook author, and owner of the Handsome Hog restaurant. His recipe for the Mac ’n’ Cheese served at his restaurant features Velveeta; no cheddar or gruyere in sight. He even makes it the same way I learned growing up, with a roux, milk, Velveeta, and seasonings, turning out a creamy sauce to pour over cooked pasta. No baking required. He does add sour cream and cottage cheese, but that’s a bit rich for me. We dress ours up with caramelized sweet onions, mushrooms, and ham.
“I know you will say that Velveeta is not cheese, and I would give you that. But it does not claim to be; it labels itself Liquid Gold, and I agree. Snicker all you want. Heat most cheeses, and they break down into unappealing clumps and drips, while Velveeta becomes smooth and creamy. Liquid Gold, indeed! It also makes a great grilled-cheese sandwich. (Don’t forget the onion.)
“So, fellow devotees, the next time someone gives a slight sneer at the mention of Velveeta, you can send them to the Handsome Hog to see what real Mac ’n’ Cheese is all about.
“I know what we’re having for dinner tonight.
“P.S.: Please keep Justin in your thoughts as he continues his recovery from severe injuries sustained in a freakish boating accident on the St. Croix this past summer. He is a good guy. His family has set up a GoFundMe to help with his medical bills.”
The Permanent Family Record
Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “Procrastination is not a great habit to have at any age — but when one is 92, it’s a terrible idea. Even so, I am still guilty.
“I have been trying to write down some of my late husband’s stories from his childhood in pre-World War II Italy.
“In the mountain village of Pretare, he lived his first 12 years. Many of the men from the village were in the United States working and sending back money for their families. The women and children were on their own.
“Life was simpler then, but also difficult. Food was adequate, but not plentiful. Wild mushrooms and chestnuts were gathered from the forests. Bread and pasta were made locally. Each family raised one pig a year and used every possible part of it. Salami was made, and the long sausages were wound around a pole and hung from the ceiling in an unheated room. Ricotta was made from sheep’s milk. Corn (granturco) was used to make polenta and polendo. Polenta was used by families, and polendo was made over a fire in the forest by the men who were making charcoal. It was thicker and denser than polenta.
“There was a belief that a pregnant woman must be offered any food she saw — and that if this was not done, the baby would forever bear a birthmark in the color and shape of the food not offered. And the story of who had failed to offer the food would never be forgotten. This belief assured that any pregnant woman would have better nutrition than she might otherwise have had.
“So many stories!”
The Permanent Family (“Criminal”) Record
DebK of Rosemount: “Taxman and I were, for the most part, thrilled at the 6-inch blanket of snow deposited over our corner of Rice County on November 29th. Suffering through a second consecutive drought year has magnified the appeal of precipitation in any form.
“There is, however, the matter of the Fiftieth Anniversary Shed, the skeleton of which stands shrouded (fetchingly, I admit) in snow. Our carefully considered plan to have the new building completed in time to house a Fiftieth Anniversary Chili-and-Cornbread Feed fell prey to the too-familiar scourges of labor and materials shortages.
“No other venue offered the ambience we required for the celebration we’d envisioned, so we pulled the plug entirely — though reluctantly. The kids noticed. Ever since, they’ve been doing their best to salve our loss — offering trips we have little interest in taking, suggesting formal parties we’d rather not attend, and making very frequent visits, which we quite enjoy. Especially since these visitors all come bearing gifts of the edible variety, grown in far-distant parts of the country.
“As we considered the most recent mother lode of California produce that arrived with Eldest Daughter just before Thanksgiving, I found myself remembering my only effort to travel with produce. It dated from early ’90s and involved 15 of the prettiest persimmons ever to appear at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. Having been warned that transporting fruit from California to Minnesota would likely pose difficulties, I was entirely prepared to prevaricate — to deny that my checked luggage contained any forbidden fruit. Turns out, I’m not the liar I think I am. When the Produce Police interrogated me, I couldn’t deny that I was packing persimmons. I’d have succeeded in dissembling, perhaps, if the persimmons hadn’t been so fragrant. Their aroma would’ve spoken the truth — even if I hadn’t.
“My persimmons were taken from me, of course. I made a very public plea that the confiscating officer would at least take the persimmons home to his children. But it came to nothing. My fruit was dispatched to a large bin already brimming with other, less attractive produce.
“It’s a trauma that’s scarred me, left me feeling inadequate. Other — better — women have succeeded where I failed. Oldest Daughter’s mother-in-law traveled in that pre-TSA era with her favorite boning knife. Debby of Dallas transports frozen capons in her luggage — and hauls home legs of lamb (sometimes shanks) the same way. Favorite Daughter-in-Law’s mother, a successful and articulate immigrant from China, always travels with pork from her favorite butcher in San Diego’s Chinatown. Once, when I asked her what she would do if she were apprehended by airport authorities, she calmly explained that she would ‘pretend not to speak English.'”
Where we live
A recent note from luv.mom: “We had our first snow this year on October 14, and now we are approaching the end of November with snow accumulation on the ground. In the meantime, we have had several days of summer temperatures, almost-daily wide variations in ‘feels like’ temperatures, strong winds, ice-forming freezing nights, bright sunshine, and spectacular orange sunsets.
“Minnesota’s slogan is ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes.’ Well, Welcome to Minnesota, the land of 10,000 seasons!”
Our theater of seasons (including: Our birds, ourselves)
Plus: Life (and death) as we know it
Both from Al B of Hartland: (1) “It was the kind of November weather in Minnesota that is outlawed in 27 states. I’m not sure how much snow we’d been gifted. I reckon most people thought it had been enough, but the moisture was welcome.
“The snow came six weeks after the first junco had appeared in the yard. It was of sufficient quantity to entice pheasants into the yard, along with a large mixed flock of blackbirds: red-winged blackbirds, rusty blackbirds, common grackles and brown-headed cowbirds. That flock mingled with starlings on the ground under the feeders and engaged in a feeding frenzy.
“A lovely young opossum ambled through that feathered world, frightening Eurasian collared-doves into flight.
“As I watched from my window, a fox sparrow sorted through the leaves. I noticed a frantic fluttering nearby. Ridiculously underdressed for temperatures cold enough that I needed to use a fur-lined teacup, I trudged through the snow because I was on a mission. I discovered that a female house sparrow’s foot had become lodged in a tiny fork in a shrub. I freed the bird with little effort and no apparent harm. If birds have nightmares, she might have them.
“Some will say: ‘Why save a house sparrow? There are enough house sparrows.’ That’s not true. We’d have been one house sparrow short.”
(2) “My wife and I attended an interment. There had been no funeral or visitation. The weather was colder than it needed to be, and the robust wind made it feel like it was 2 degrees. The honor guard fired their rifles three times. A bugler played Taps. There was no one else there who knew the deceased. He’d outlived most of his family. The lone survivor was infirm. I watched a member of the honor guard stamp his feet for warmth. It was a sad occasion, yet I was glad to be where my feet were. The three of us remembered. Everyone should be remembered. We went home and ate funeral potatoes.”
Dept. of Neat Stuff
Clock It to Me Division
Dept. of Neat Stuff founder (and, to date, sole proprietor) Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff reports: “Clocks have gone through an interesting evolution. First they were elegant wind-up timekeepers proudly displayed in parlors and living rooms. Then they became utilitarian devices with cords, hung on kitchen walls or put on a bed stand. Finally they became nothing more than a box that displayed numbers. As their accuracy improved, their design got worse.The question is: Do I consider any clock to be Neat Stuff?
“At least one clock does: the Magneclock, created in the 1950s by, who else, St. Paul’s Brown & Bigelow as one of their Remembrance division’s many promotional items. The reason for the name will become apparent soon.
“It is about 6 inches in diameter and was meant to sit on one of those gigantic desks that apparently everyone had back then.
“Unlike a typical clock, it sits in a horizontal position with the face pointing upwards. To accomplish this, it rests in a cradle with three legs — so that from the side, it resembles a classic 1950s flying saucer. It can be rotated in any direction but tilted only a small amount. There are three standard controls on the underside: a key for winding it up, a knob to adjust the time, and a recessed lever to adjust the speed of the clock.
“The Magneclock’s face appears normal at first glance, but a second look reveals, as a kid in some old commercial once said: ‘Look, Ma, no hands.’ Instead of hands, there are two channels — the inner one containing a gold ball bearing, the outer one containing a silver ball bearing. The silver ball takes the place of the minute hand; the gold ball, the hour hand.
“So how do they move? As the name implies, it’s all done with magnets. The internal mechanism must be similar to a standard clock movement that has magnets on the tips of its ‘hands.’ These move the balls on the visible side of the face. I’d love to take it apart to see the details, but that way lies madness and the probable destruction of a unique clock.
“The balls explain why the clock has to lie horizontally rather than be mounted vertically. If it is tilted by more than about 10 degrees, the force of gravity overcomes the magnetic attraction and the balls roll to the bottom of their channels. A glass cover over the face fits tightly enough so the balls can move freely but can’t pop out if they break free.
“It’s a weird clock but, fascinating to watch. The ticking is soothing, and the sound of the hour ball moving in small increments adds a nice audio effect. I wonder who designed it, because I’d like to thank him or, of course, her.”
Keeping your eyes open (and moving in the right direction)
Bill of the river lake: “Subject: The very, very basics.
“As a substitute custodian, some of my second-shift duties are taking out the trash and vacuuming classrooms. The other day while beginning to vacuum, I noticed a rather strange classroom sign that got me to wondering. It was about a foot square, with a bold arrow pointing to the right, with the word ‘Read’ below it. Now, what does this mean in a kindergarten classroom?
“:Finally, the light went on in my brain, and I realized that, as very young students, they were learning to read, and the sign instructed them to begin reading from left to right.
“To adults, this seems rather basic, but to a 5-year-old, it really helps.
“Oh, the wonders of modern education . . . .”
Clothes encounters of the condo kind (Wisconsin Riviera Division)
Plus: The buck stops there (Leading to: CAUTION! Words at Play!)
Both from The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: (1) “Subject: Pardon my shabby jacket; it’s just out of context.
“Now that colder weather is here, I have been wearing my 20-year-old, ratty, brown-leather bomber jacket to my woodworking shop. The scuffs and scars guarantee it’s beyond ever hanging in any thrift store. It’s the only coat I’ve ever had the zipper replaced on, and the pocket bottoms exit directly to the lining. It is not afraid of stains, varnish or glue, and sawdust doesn’t stick to it for the ride home.
“It is a little awkward when getting on the condo elevator with my neighbors, but I have an answer for that. I just tell them: If Brad Pitt were wearing this as a guest on the ‘Tonight Show,’ you’d think he was just about the coolest guy you’ve ever seen.”
(2) “Subject: Lemons to Lemonade.
“After a half-hour of careful scroll sawing, I was more than a little upset when I snapped the neck of the miniature reindeer ornament I was working on. Luckily I have learned to keep broken and failed project parts for a while, to see if I can figure how to put them to use in other ways.
“BINGO! I made it into a trophy-buck swizzle stick for my Manhattans.
“Then I shouted out with glee: ‘You’re not a broken reindeer, you’ll go down the hatch with me!'”
Everyone’s a copy editor
Headline Division (or: Muse, amuse)
Rusty of St. Paul writes: “The first thing I do in the morning is read the Sports section of the Pioneer Press.
“Well, that isn’t exactly correct. The first thing I do is solve the New York Times Wordle puzzle.
“Shoot, OK, to be precise, the first thing I do is to check to see if I am still breathing and have a heart rate. Then I solve Wordle and next read the sports page.
“I really enjoy the creativity of the Pioneer Press editors who come up with the clever headlines for the wins and losses of the Vikings, Gophers, Twins, Wild, etc. Almost all of the time, I get a chuckle and show them to my wife.
“I was a bit let down, though, by the headline ‘Lucky 7′ after the Vikings’ zany overtime win over the Buffalo Bills. Vikings defensive back Patrick Peterson made two interceptions, including the one that won the game for us. His jersey number is 7, and 7 is a lucky number in Las Vegas — so not a bad headline, but I liked mine better: ‘Vikings Buffalo Bills!’
“I give the Press permission to use it the next time the two teams meet — hopefully in the Super Bowl this season. Oh, I amuse myself.”
Oopps! (Or: Everyone’s a copy editor)
Plus: Vanity, thy name is . . .
Friendly Bob of Fridley writes: (1) “Subject: Those pesky spell-checkers.
“I had to ‘smile’ at this little blooper.
“For the third Prep Bowl game on Friday, December 2, my cable guide showed this entry: ‘MSHSL Class AAAA Championship: Smiley vs. Hutchinson.’
“Simley was, of course, the school that was playing Hutch.
“I smell the work of a spell-checker or auto-correct in this.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: What would you call the team from Smiley High? We’d propose: the Smiley Fighting Emojis.
(2) “Sometimes it takes more than one look at a personalized license plate to
get the gist of it. When I saw this one, it did not register immediately, but once I said it out loud . . . I would guess perhaps a tennis player: ‘4T-LOVE’!”
The great comebacks (responsorial)
Another recent note from luv.mom: “In the November 21 BB, Red’s Offspring writes about ‘Frank’s mantra.’ When asked how he was doing, he would reply: ‘If I were doing any better, I’d have to be two people.’
“Reminded me of my dad, who would reply to that question: ‘If I were doing any better, I’d have to take something for it.’ Or: ‘Not too bad for an older kid.’
“When he wrote quips, he would sign them ‘Pete Oilcan.’ I don’t know where that came from. His name was Robert.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Was your father from Indiana? If so, this might be a clue.
Leading to: Ask a silly question . . .
Writes Helena Handbasket: “Subject: Unhelpful hint?
“A recipe in today’s La Crosse Trombone says in order to take the bitterness out of escarole, you tear it into pieces and rinse them, shaking and aggravating the leaves in the process.
“Wouldn’t that just make them more bitter?”
Then & Now
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: ‘The Godfather,’ Page (17?).
“An AARP periodical listed things created in 1972 that we now can’t be without — including the first ‘Godfather’ movie. This reminds me of my job working in the library of St. Kate’s in 1970. One day when I was working the Circulation Desk, a teacher (nun?) came in. She slammed Mario Puzo’s book ‘The Godfather’ on the counter to return it, and marched out. I mentioned this to another student, who said the teacher must have read Page (17?). And of course all nearby students had to read that page of the book — which involved a bridesmaid in a wedding, a door in a bedroom, and I think the groom, who later came to a bad end.
“When the movie came out, I went to see it with my best friend — an Italian from the Iron Range. The movie ends in violence, which traumatizes me. As we exited the theater, I found myself walking as far from her as possible on the sidewalk — until I mentally disconnected her from Mob violence and calmed down. The closest she ever came to the Mafia, growing up, was a distant relative at a family gathering who wore a spiffy suit. I don’t think he lived a long life. I did see the second ‘Godfather’ movie later, but that was enough for me — partly because I have sensory issues with things like loud noise and murder.
“My summer working at St. Kate’s had another effect, though. On a whim, I bought, in the student bookstore, a cheap plastic template for computer programmers. It was created for flowcharting decisions and logistics. I got it to fiddle with, but in Library (graduate) School I needed a special project. So I used it to flowchart the work of the entire Circulation Desk — from checking books out to levying fines (most of which is now handled by computers). I got an A on the project, and I gave a copy to the St. Kate’s library. But the logic of using it was good exercise for my mind and life — as I worked to stay employed in multiple fields long enough to retire. I even used it when creating technical manuals for laboratory workers. And I still wish, sometimes, that I had flowcharting software on my computer when I’m making major decisions.”
Life as we know it
Semi-Legend reports: “Subject: Books come, books go, these stay.
“Lately I’ve been reading fiction about bookstores — most recently ‘The Book Haters’ Book Club,’ by Minneapolis author Gretchen Anthony. It features Elliot — the beloved co-owner of Over the Rainbow Bookshop in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood, apparently around the corner from Barbette.
“Elliot recommends books to people who say they have no time to read books. He’s quite good at it.
“We’re also engaged in a massive book cull as we rearrange our aging household. One survivor of the cull is ‘Life As We Know It: The Best of Bulletin Board, Vol. 2,’ especially after I opened to Page 51 and read the entry by Jane of Blaine, and Bulletin Board’s reply:
“’I noticed a book called Women Who Do Too Much. It seems to me that if you have time to read a book with that title, you have too much time on your hands.’
“‘BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: Next – Women Who Read Too Much.’
“That last is a null set. But the BB book is a keeper.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Thank you, Semi-Legend. We are honored to have made the cut.
Band Name of the Day: Outlawed in 27 States — or: The Null Set
Website of the Day: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo